Pitt improved to 8-0 with a 80-66 win over Duquesne in the annual City Game; the first to be played at the new Consol Energy Center. Gary McGhee broke out of a slump with his biggest offensive game of the year, with 12 points. Ashton Gibbs had a game-high 22 points, and was joined in double figures by Nasir Robinson with 14. McGhee had a game-high 13 rebounds, followed by Robinson with 12. Pitt outrebounded the Dukes 56-35 for the game.
"I certainly think talent and height have a lot to do with (Pitt's edge on the boards," Duquesne head coach Ron Everhart said. "Their kids are seasoned veterans and know how to seal and keep you from getting back around them. They do an unbelievably good job of getting to the weak side and rebounding the ball when a shot is taken from one side."
Things started off in a bad way for Pitt. They went back to old habits, turning the ball over. They turned the ball over 15 times in a win over Robert Morris last week, then rebounded with a more disciplined performance against Penn on Saturday, turning the ball over just eight times. Against Duquesne, they were able to win by 14, yet they overcame 19 turnovers.
McGhee also led with seven blocks, which tied a Pitt record. The 56 rebounds by Pitt marked the third time this season the Panthers finished with at least 50 rebounds in a game.
Duquesne jumped out to a 6-0 lead after Damian Saunders came up with a loose ball, then pushed the ball up to T.J. McConnell, who took it in for an easy layup. Jamie Dixon called timeout just 1:33 into the game. Three Pitt turnovers were the early cause.
Pitt got its first lead, a 11-10 lead at 13:45, off a three-pointer from Travon Woodall--one of two three-pointers Pitt would make in the first half. Duquesne had lost a little bit of that swagger they had from the opening tip through the first few minutes of the game. Pitt was also taking better care of the ball. Once they calmed down, after committing five turnovers in the first six minutes of the game, they only turned it over four more times in the final 14 minutes of the half.
Pitt went up 24-15, off a drive from Lamar Patterson a few minutes later. Pitt's lead hit double digits at 5:19, when Ashton Gibbs hit a short-range jumper from the wing, putting Pitt up 30-19. They held the Dukes without a field goal over the next three minutes, before Bill Clark answered with a three-pointer--just the second three-pointer of the half, yet Pitt still led 34-23. It also marked Clark's first points of the game. Though he finished with 20 points, Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon was pleased with how his team defended the Dukes leading scorer early on.
"It was a combination of guys, not just Nasir on (Clark)," Dixon said. "We really focused on him, but he still got his points at the end."
Duquesne finished the half shooting just 3-of-13 from three-point range, while the Panthers weren't much better at 2-of-10. Duquesne entered Wednesday night's game shooting 40 percent from three-point range. Duquesne came into the game averaging 11.5 three-pointers a game. Though they had a better second half, they finished just 8-of-25 (32%) from three-point range Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon stressed defending the three, and felt his team did well in that area.
"I thought we defended the three well, early," Dixon added. "I thought we did a pretty good job of that, and rebounding, pretty well. Those were the two things we emphasized pretty well, coming in."
Pitt struggled in the early goings of the second half, as they cut Pitt's lead back to single digits. Damian Saunders blocked a Talib Zanna to give the Dukes defense some momentum. The Dukes answered with a three-pointer from McConnell, then got a transition basket after a missed three-pointer by Brad Wanamaker. Pitt's lead was cut to eight points, 43-35, not even three full minutes into the second half.
Just as Duquesne fought back, both teams started getting in foul trouble. Rodrigo Peggau picked up his third foul at 16:24, after he tried to charge over Robinson. With Pitt up 53-40 with 13:56 left in the game, Damian Saunders picked up his third foul of the game. He was called for an intentional foul, which sent Travon Woodall to the ground. Woodall hit both of his free throws. Pitt received possession of the ball off the intentional foul, which was answered by a three-pointer from Ashton Gibbs. Pitt was up 58-40 in a matter of seconds. Pitt also had its share of foul trouble in the second half. Woodall picked up his third foul with 12:22 left, and Wanamaker his fourth with 7:54 left.
Both teams combined for eight three-pointers in the second half. Duquesne would only get as close as 11 points, a 72-61 deficit with 3:10 left in the game, thanks to a three-pointer from Clark--his fifth of the game. Over that final three minutes, though, Duquesne was just 2-of-5 from the field, with the Panthers coming up with three defensive rebounds off all three Duquesne misses.
"Obviously, I wish we would have rebounded the ball better and made free throws," Everhart said. "I thought it would have been a little bit different of a game. You have to give Pitt credit. Every time we tried to take a run at them, they closed the bay with their offensive rebounding."