New chapter, same ending in City Game
Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2011 02:12
Eighty games against each other, and the story of the recent past remained much the same. Pitt (6-1) used its vast array of talented scorers and an added 34-point boost from its deep bench to coast to an 80-69 victory over the Dukes (4-3), the Panthers 11th straight win over Duquesne in the annual City Game.
The 15,880 person crowd at Consol Energy Center was the largest City Game attendence since 1981 at the Civic Arena.
Ashton Gibbs and Dante Taylor's combined 33 points were too much for the Dukes, who could only muster 35 points from nine players not named Sean Johnson or T.J. McConnell.
Pitt opened a 14-2 run midway through the first half to take a 19-10 lead and never looked back. Gibbs and John Johnson ignited the run for the Panthers, each hitting a 3-pointer, and the Dukes missed what coach Ron Everhart called "advantageous scoring" opportunities.
"We have a double-dribble. We have a rebound fall out of our hands. We had the ball in what we would consider an advantageous scoring position and sometimes came away with nothing," Everhart said.
With his team struggling on the glass in the first half, Everhart was quick to go to his bench despite no player finishing the first half with more than one foul.
"We weren't getting a single rebound. I was just hoping we could get a combination in there that could help us," Everhart said. "We were just losing those battles, so we were on defense all the time tonight. And like in any sport, that's tough to overcome."
Both teams went to their bench early. Pitt used nine players in the first half and Duquesne used 10, but Pitt had the advantage with 15 points off the bench to Duquesne's six in the first half.
"We were going to have to use our depth in this game going into it," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We played 10 guys, and it was a good performance by a lot of guys. It was terrific."
The number of scorers for Pitt was unmatched by Duquesne, who only managed to have three players score more than eight points. Pitt held true to its rebounding average, which is near the top in the nation, pulling down 39 boards to Duquesne's paltry 15. It hurt the Dukes worse when Taylor and 6-foot-9 Zanna Talib helped the blue and gold earn 18 second chance points on easy tip-ins.
B.J. Monteiro had seven points at the half on 3-for-6 shooting, but finished with only nine points. T.J. McConnell finished with 15 points and three assists, but also had three turnovers.
The Dukes drew to within four points down 50-46 with 12 minutes left to play after a strong start to the second half from Sean Johnson, who scored seven points in the first four minutes of the half after only scoring four in the first.
"We were down by like 10. I was just trying to be as aggressive as possible on the offensive end," said Johnson, who finished with 19.
The Dukes were within six points, down 52-46, when Nasir Robinson missed a free throw but Travon Woodall recovered the rebound and dished it to Gibbs who hit a three to put the Panthers up nine. McConnell called it a game-changing moment.
"They got a rebound and kicked it out for a three and that just killed our momentum," McConnell said. "We were clicking on all cylinders but we gave them that rebound for a three and that really just killed us."
Pitt would not let the Dukes get closer than seven following Gibbs' three as they sailed to another win in the series, raising Pitt's overall series advantage to 49-31.
Everhart felt that every time the Dukes would get close, a poor decision would let Pitt pull away again.
"They beat us in every aspect," he said. "I just thought every time we had them in trouble they were able to convert with a big three. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, too. We had some steals and the open floor and didn't convert."
McConnell finished 3-for-4 from 3-point range, but the rest of the team struggled going only 3-for-13, a percentage that hurt worse when the red and blue failed to rebound their missed shots.
Duquesne forced 23 turnovers, and scored 27 points off of those, but never managed to get within serious striking distance, turning it over 12 times themselves.
The Dukes will play Tennessee Tech at home this Saturday at 7 p.m.