Pitt uses defense and rebounding to beat Dukes in City Game
Pitt brought out its throwback jerseys for the first time this season for the annual City Game against Duquesne on Friday.
Appropriately enough, the Panthers turned in a retro performance to maintain its series dominance.
A pair of old standbys — defense and rebounding — made the difference for Pitt, and a late run helped the Panthers pull away for a 74-53 victory over Duquesne at PPG Paints Arena.
“That’s just toughness, and that’s what we take pride in is toughness and being there for your team, being a part of the team, being a part of the family,” Pitt’s Jared Wilson-Frame said. “That’s what we take pride in, and that’s what results in getting defensive stops, getting rebounds and just playing the right way.”
On a night when Pitt had its share of offensive struggles, the Panthers (7-1) used the other parts of their game to beat Duquesne for the 17th time in the past 18 meetings of the crosstown rivals.
Pitt held Duquesne to 33.3 percent shooting, forced 22 turnovers and outrebounded the Dukes, 42-33. A late 15-0 run, during which Pitt held Duquesne without a field goal for more than seven minutes, turned a tight game into a runaway.
“Defense is something we like to hang our hat on,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We take pride in it. We work on it, and I think we’ve seen some pretty good results. It’s something we have to continue to do and continue to work on.”
The Panthers bounced back from their first loss of the season, a one-point setback Tuesday at No. 14 Iowa, but Friday’s game hung in the balance until midway through the second half.
After Duquesne’s Austin Rotroff scored to cut the Panthers’ lead to 51-45 at the 9-minute, 11-second mark, Pitt scored the next 15 points, including 3-pointers by Sidy N’Dir and Wilson-Frame and an alley-oop dunk by Malik Ellison.
Duquesne missed eight field-goal attempts and committed four turnovers during the Pitt run before Michael Hughes finally got the Dukes back on the board with a three-point play with 1:58 remaining.
“The thing that disappointed me was you just have to be more competitive when you get smacked,” Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot said. “You just have to play till the bitter end. That’s the disappointing thing to me.”
Duquesne held a size and shooting advantage on paper against Pitt, and the Dukes (4-2) asserted themselves early with an 8-0 run to begin the game on 3-pointers by Eric Williams Jr. and Sincere Carry sandwiched around a Hughes dunk.
Nothing much went right for the Dukes after that. They made just five of their 24 3-point attempts and had just 13 assists to their 22 turnovers.
“I feel like we were playing out of character a little bit, making silly mistakes,” said Hughes, who had his first career double-double with a game-high 20 points and 10 rebounds.
A 9-0 run in the first half gave Pitt the lead for good at 18-15, and the Panthers turned it on late. They had their own shooting struggles, which included missing their first 11 3-point attempts, but they got going in transition late.
Trey McGowens led four Pitt players in double figures with 14 points, and Ellison added 13, Wilson-Frame scored 12 and Xavier Johnson had 10. Au’Diese Toney had nine rebounds, and Kene Chukwuka added eight.
“We just had to kind of calm down, get back to our principles,” Wilson-Frame said. “That was how you see us come out in the second half and try to take over the game a little bit.”
Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Doug at [email protected] or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.