New Castle News


December 1, 2011

College Basketball: Pitt takes down Duquesne in City Game

PITTSBURGH — Duquesne guard T.J. McConnell said before Wednesday night's game against No. 17 Pittsburgh that if the Dukes couldn't rebound against the bigger Panthers, they couldn't win.

He was more right than he even he imagined.

Despite shooting 52 percent from the field and forcing 23 turnovers, the Dukes fell 80-69 to their crosstown rivals in the annual City Game by getting crushed on the glass.

The Panthers outrebounded Dukes 39-15, pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and scored 18 second-chance points to win their 11th straight in the series.

"If you told me before the game that we'd come in here and force 23 turnovers and shoot 52 percent, I'd be convinced we had a great chance to win this game," Duquesne coach Ron Everhart said. "Obviously, we had to rebound a little better and force them to shoot a little more poorly from the 3-point line."

Sean Johnson led Duquesne (4-3) with 19 points and McConnell had 15 points, four steals and three assists but the Dukes struggled against the bigger, stronger, deeper Panthers.

Ashton Gibbs scored 18 points, Dante Taylor added 15 points and Lamar Patterson had 10 for the Panthers, who never trailed over the game's final 30 minutes.

McConnell said one rebound in particular brought the Dukes' momentum to a screeching halt. Mamadou Datt's jumper with 12:44 left in the game cut Pitt's lead to 50-46. But Pitt's Nasir Robinson was fouled on a made layup and missed the free throw. The Panthers pulled down the rebound and Travon Woodall kicked it to Ashton Gibbs for a 3-pointer that extended Pitt's lead to 55-46.

"We were clicking on all cylinders," McConnell said. "But we gave them that rebound for the 3 and that really just killed us. We fought hard and did everything we needed to do."

Each time the Dukes drew close, Gibbs would answer with a big shot, including consecutive 3-pointers during a 14-6 run midway through the second half that gave Pitt some needed breathing room.

Taylor had missed the previous two games with migraine headaches and lost his starting job to freshman Khem Birch. Yet he made up for lost time, making all six of his shots from the field and adding 11 rebounds, playing so well Birch spent most of the second half on the bench.

"It definitely was a confidence builder, just piggybacking off the last game I played before the two I missed," Taylor said. "I was able to come out and play with energy."

The Dukes hoped to overcome their distinct size disadvantage by pushing the tempo against a Pitt team that has lacked the defensive tenacity that's become the hallmark of the program under coach Jamie Dixon.

"I think our fast-paced game really makes teams uncomfortable," McConnell said. "To force Pitt into 23 turnovers just shows you how fast we can really be and how fast we can push teams. We started to trap them, they were throwing the ball back and forth and we got into the passing lanes."

It worked, for a couple of minutes anyway.

Duquesne's first three baskets were layups as the Dukes had little trouble beating the Panthers down the court, breathing life into a record Consol Energy Center crowd of 15,880 that appeared to have more Duquesne red in the stands than Pitt gold.

Pitt steadied itself behind the play of their big guys and their depth. Taylor, Birch, Patterson, Nasir Robinson and Talib Zanna cut off the lane and swallowed up miss after miss.

The Panthers took control with an 8-0 run early in the first half and slowly extended it to 38-27, with Zanna's dunk at the halftime horn a perfect example of Pitt's dominance around the rim.

The Dukes didn't let Pitt run away as Johnson and McConnell kept pestering Gibbs and backcourt mate Travon Woodall into sloppy mistakes.

Woodall finished with nine points and seven assists but also gave it away six times. Gibbs had four turnovers, but made up for it with clutch shooting.

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