Pitt runs away from No. 15 Duke 76-62
PITTSBURGH (AP) James Robinson held onto the moment. An hour after Pittsburgh's biggest win of the season, a decidedly one-sided 76-62 dissection of No. 15 Duke on Sunday, the senior point guard stood in a sparse Petersen Events Center surrounded by friends and family, posing for pictures and shaking hands.
Robinson's final home game won't be his last moment in the spotlight. A vintage performance by the Panthers and their steady leader made sure of that.
The Panthers, after a series of fits and starts, are improving. The NCAA Tournament, after a blowout of the defending national champions, is beckoning.
''We're a team that's matured and come together and played our best basketball and our seniors are playing their best basketball,'' coach Jamie Dixon said. ''James Robinson is playing his best basketball. We've let him down in a few of these losses to ranked teams but I thought we made up for it.''
Robinson was his typically efficient self, scoring 14 points to go with seven assists, three rebounds and just one turnover in his school-record 130th start. Jamel Artis added 17 points and the Panthers (20-8, 9-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat a ranked opponent for the first time in seven tries this season to give them some major momentum heading into March.
Pitt held Duke to 37 percent shooting (18 of 48) and outscored the Blue Devils in the paint 24-6.
''Their defense was outstanding and their pursuit of the ball was even better,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ''They were superb and I'm not sure if we were. We were out of character.''
Grayson Allen had 22 points for Duke and stayed out of trouble after being admonished by the ACC for his role in tripping a Florida State player in a Blue Devils victory last Thursday. There were no run-ins with any of the Panthers on Sunday, perhaps because Pitt spent so much time running by the Blue Devils.
Down to perhaps its last chance to earn the marquee victory it so desperately needs to assure the program of an NCAA berth, Pitt responded with a performance that hastened back to its rugged run as one of the bullies in the old-school Big East.
The grit the Panthers used to thrive on during its last decade in that league has largely disappeared. Pitt ranks near the bottom of the ACC in several major defensive categories and has struggled at times to keep seemingly lesser opponents from knocking down shots.
That wasn't a problem against the Blue Devils. At the end of a difficult stretch that included a road win at North Carolina, Duke looked a step behind at times and physically overwhelmed at others.
The Panthers scored the game's first 10 points and provided an emphatic answer whenever the Blue Devils appeared close to making it interesting. Pitt opened the second half with a 9-1 surge and put together an 11-0 run after a Luke Kennard 3-pointer drew Duke within 58-48 with 10:10 to go.
''Duke is a good team but we're a better team and we showed it tonight,'' Artis said.
Krzyzewski said he met with Allen and isn't concerned about the sophomore guard's penchant for rough play becoming an issue moving forward after twice sending opponents tumbling to the court in the last month.
The ACC chastised Allen for his role in tripping Florida State's Xavier Rathan-Mayes with 3.4 seconds left in Duke's 15-point romp. That incident happened after Rathan-Mayes appeared to grab the back of Allen's jersey. Allen received a flagrant foul for tripping Louisville's Ray Spalding earlier this month. Allen acknowledged he made a mistake and will try to avoid similar missteps in the future.
Allen was jeered mercilessly by Pitt's ''Oakland Zoo'' student section, several of whom made signs calling Grayson out for his antics. While hardly endorsing Allen's behavior, Krzyzewski is determined to not let it become an issue going forward, at least as far as his team goes.
''I thought they took action and you've got to move on,'' Krzyzewski said. ''The world doesn't move on, because it's Duke. We handled it the way we should.''
Duke: The Blue Devils made just 11 of 32 3-point attempts. ... Duke finished 5-4 on the road in ACC play. ... Senior center Marshall Plumlee didn't even attempt a shot in 28 minutes and was held scoreless for the first time this season. He did have four rebounds and two assists.
Pitt: The Panthers outrebounded Duke 39-20 and shot 50 percent (28 of 56) from the field, including 8 of 20 from 3-point range. ... The Panthers' 222 wins at the Petersen Events Center since 2002 are the second-most in the NCAA. ... Pitt has defeated at least one ranked opponents in each of Dixon's 13 seasons.
Duke: hosts Wake Forest on Tuesday.
Pitt: plays at Virginia Tech on Wednesday