Pitt, Duquesne renew annual rivalry
We interrupt this week in sports to bring you the annual City Game, presented by Consol Energy Center.
The new Uptown arena will host its first college basketball game Wednesday with the renewal of the Pitt-Duquesne men’s game, known locally as the City Game and dominated in recent years by Pitt.
“I can’t describe what it feels like to have the opportunity to play in this game,” said Duquesne guard and former Chartiers Valley High School star T.J. McConnell, one of two freshman starters in the backcourt for the Dukes. “I’ve known about it since I was a young kid.”
The long-standing series was held at Mellon Arena in 2009, when Pitt scored a come-from-behind, 67-58, double-overtime victory in that building’s final college basketball game.
“It is ideal that we have Pitt playing Duquesne in that first game. It’s just how everybody hoped it would turn out,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said Monday as Duquesne coach Ron Everhart looked on during a news conference at Consol Energy Center to promote the event.
Everhart later would echo Dixon’s sentiments, proudly referring to himself as “a local guy” who understands “the great tradition that has been involved in this rivalry.”
Duquesne’s fifth-year coach, who has restored the once-hapless Dukes’ relevance during his tenure on the Bluff, was born and raised in Fairmont, W.Va., 90 miles south of Pittsburgh.
“I’m awful excited,” he said. “We have a good, young group of guys playing a very good, veteran group of guys. We are looking at this game as an opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country, if not the best team in the country, as I see it right now. They are a team certainly capable of winning the national championship, as they have been for the past five or six years, at least.”
The Panthers (7-0), up two spots to third in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, have won nine consecutive games over Duquesne (3-1) and 28 of the past 31 meetings, though the Dukes nearly won last season. They wasted a 16-point second-half lead.
“Was there a more exciting game in college basketball than last year?” Dixon offered. “It’s hard to come by. I think both of us felt we could have played better, but as coaches, we always feel that way.”
Dixon, in his 12th year overall and eighth year as coach of Pitt, recalled other classic tussles in the rivalry.
“At Duquesne a couple of years back, that was a great game,” he said of Pitt’s last-minute 73-68 victory at Palumbo Center in 2007. “I can remember the game we lost to Duquesne (a 71-70 decision in 2000 at Mellon Arena) like it was yesterday. We’ve had great games.”
Rivalries such as the City Game truly are a great element of sports because, as Dixon put it: “Whatever happened last year or the previous two years don’t matter. It’s a new game, and everything is forgotten. It’s just playing that night.”
Pitt senior forward Gilbert Brown, who played on McConnell’s Pittsburgh Pro-Am Summer League team, is particularly excited about the game after missing last year’s affair while sitting out the fall semester for academic reasons.
“I look forward to a competitive game and going out there and giving my best,” Brown said. “It’s the City Game. What else can you expect with a great game and great competition?”
During the past 31 years, Pitt has dominated its City Game men’s basketball rivalry with Duquesne and has won nine in a row in the series, though lately, the Dukes have put up a good fight. Three of the past five meetings have been decided by single digits. A look at the results over the past decade:
Date — Venue — Winner
Dec. 21, 2000 — Mellon Arena — Duquesne, 71-70
Dec. 22, 2001 — Mellon Arena — Pitt, 78-63
Nov. 23, 2002 — Petersen Events Center — Pitt, 82-67
Dec. 3, 2003 — Palumbo Center — Pitt, 59-45
Dec. 4, 2004 — Petersen Events Center — Pitt, 87-57
Dec. 7, 2005 — Palumbo Center — Pitt, 71-60
Dec. 6, 2006 — Petersen Events Center — Pitt, 73-56
Dec. 5, 2007 — Palumbo Center — Pitt, 73-68
Dec. 3, 2008 — Petersen Events Center — Pitt, 78-51
Dec. 2, 2009 — Mellon Arena — Pitt, 67-58*