A Petersen Events Center record crowd of 12,944 came out for one of the most anticipated games in program history.
Unfortunately, it didn't pale Pitt's way, as Duke came away with a 80-65 win over Pitt.
Jabari Parker had his usual big game, 21 points. However, Duke got a welcome addition from Andre Dawkins' 20 points, 14 from Pennsylvania native Amile Jefferson and 13 from Rodney Hood.
"It was the defensive end that didn't get it done for us," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "Give (Duke) credit. It got away from us. They played well and I don't think we did."
"I think it's our biggest win (of the season), and it's because of the caliber of the team we played," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "This is a beautiful arena, the crowd is terrific. What a terrific addition to the ACC."
Jefferson didn't so much draw attention away from Parker, as much as he created an identity of his own. Especially, late in the game.
Pitt was led by Lamar Patterson, who finished with 14 points. Talib Zanna finished with 11.
The biggest thing that created separation for Duke, especially later in the second half, was a sold three-point shooting performance by a multitude of players. The Blue Devils shot 52 percent (13-25) for the game, receiving multiple three-pointers from multiple players. Dawkins, alone, was 6-7. Hood was 3-7, and Parker was 2-6. The 13 three-pointers are the most allowed by a Dixon-coached team.
"It was mental mistakes," Patterson said. "We didn't really execute on defense in the second half."
Pitt got out to the early lead behind some good rebounding from Zanna. They also used Zanna underneath to help open up some scoring. Duke decided to matchup Jefferson on Zanna early. Zanna used it to his advantage, sealing off Jefferson underneath for a screen, opening a clear path for James Robinson to go all the way to the hole for an uncontested layup.
Patterson showed off some moves on the next Pitt possession, juking out his defender. Though his field goal attempt bounced off the rim, he was fouled on the play. Patterson converted both free throws, as Pitt took an early 8-2 lead.
Patterson was equally impressive on defense, blocking a shot and coming up with the loose ball, then coming up with a defensive rebound. He was able to head to the bench, leaving Pitt with a lineup of Chris Jones, Cameron Wright, Derrick Randall, Mike Young and Josh Newkirk. Pitt increased its lead to 12-7.
A three from wright made it a 15-9 lead with 11:15 left in the first half.
Patterson later showed up underneath, pulling down a pair of offensive rebounds. However, Pitt couldn't put away the easy baskets.
Instead, Parker worked his way underneath on the next Duke possession, drawing a foul. He converted both free throws, closing the Pitt lead to 15-13.
Hood hit a three-pointer at the top of the key, giving Duke its first lead of the game, 19-17, at the under-eight mark. Pitt had gone zone, in an effort to force some tougher looks. Unfortunately, with a 44-percent three-point shooter like Hood, sometimes it doesn't matter.
Mike Young answered with a layup for Pitt on its next possession, tying the game back up at 19-19.
Dawkins answered with a three, before Jamel Artis answered with another. The game a tied at 24-24, with just under five minutes left in the first half.
For the first half, though, Wright was Pitt's biggest offensive threat, while Parker was for Duke. Wright worked his way for a layup to give Pitt a 27-26 lead. On the other end, Parker answered with a three-pointer, giving Duke a 29-27 lead, at the under-three mark of the half.
Parker, again, put Duke back on top with another layup, 31-29. Then, it was Artis answering with a second three-pointer of the game, putting the Panthers back up 32-31, just under 1:30 left in the half.
Duke got another three-pointer from Hood to make it a three-point Duke lead. Pitt was looking to hold the ball for one final shot. They did, albeit Robinson getting fouled after an offensive rebound. Robinson converted 1-2 free throws, making it a 34-32 Duke lead heading into halftime.
Duke had won its previous four games holding the four opponents to a collective shooting percentage of 42 percent. Pitt was held to 40 percent in the first half, including leading scorer Patterson, who was just 1-4 shooting in the first half.
Parker led all scorers with 16 in the first half, but it was Artis and Wright, leading Pitt with eight points, and seven points, respectively.
"He put up a lot more shots," Young said, comparing Parker to other players he's defended this year. "Still, we practice defense every day."
Pitt got a couple of early second half points on a couple second chance buckets. Not even a three-pointer from Hood, his third of the game, could keep Duke at ease. The Blue Devils called timeout barely two minutes into the second half, up 37-36 on Pitt.
While another three-pointer from Rasheed Sulaimon, gave Duke a 40-37 lead. Pitt clawed its way back, tying the game at 40-40, at the under-16 mark. Duke quickly answered, going back up 42-40, followed by another quick timeout.
Then Pitt answered, a three-pointer from Young, followed by a two-pointer from Patterson. That made it a 46-45 Duke lead, with 14:06 left in the game. Dixon then called a quick timeout, countering Duke's earlier timeouts in the half.
Pitt tried to keep it close, until Parker found himself open off a screen, keeping his team up by three, 50-47, approaching the under-12 mark of the game.
Pitt capitalized after a second stop on defense, as Newkirk added a jumper from up top. That made it a 50-49 Duke lead. That bucket was quickly answered by Jefferson, who took over the game over the next few minutes. He kept Duke up with his third field goal of the second half, 52-49.
And if he wasn't scoring, Jefferson was setting teammates up. He found Hood wide open for a three-pointer, with 8:46 left. That gave Duke a 57-51 lead, its biggest lead of the game. Dixon had to call another timeout.
Pitt held Duke without a field goal for nearly four minutes before Jefferson's bucket. Duke responded with a 7-2 run.
The biggest clincher, though may have been another three-pointer from Dawkins. That gave Duke a 60-51 lead, approaching the 7:00 mark. Not to mention Duke being unbeaten in its previous nine games this season, when Dawkins scores in double-figures.
He added another for good measure, to keep his team up 67-54, approaching the five-minute mark.
"We're the beneficiaries of his great play," Krzyzewski said. "Our players got looks for him, and all of a sudden, boom!' Andre really made a difference."
And for good reason. Patterson--held in check for most of the game--answered with a three of his own, keeping Pitt within 10, 67-57.
Jefferson answered for Duke, converting a contested look underneath, drawing the foul, then converting the and-one. His points kept Duke up by 13, 70-57.
"He had 10 rebounds, six offensive," Patterson said of Jefferson. "He kills you in his own way."
It was a close game, up until those final eight minutes. Dixon placed the blame on his shoulders, saying he's got to get his team better defensively.
"We were impatient," Dixon added. "The last three minutes were about gambling, trying to foul. It was about the previous 37 minutes, down six, then down nine after they hit that three. I thought the first half, we did pretty good defensively. In the second half, our defense wasn't good enough to win, and our rebounding wasn't good enough to win."