Parker, Dawkins lead Duke over Pitt
For a few games this month, Duke played without its usual toughness.
Those were also the Blue Devils’ first road games of the season, both resulting in ACC losses.
On Monday night, playing in their toughest environment yet, No. 17 Duke had plenty of toughness of its own to post its most impressive win of the season.
Jabari Parker’s 21 points and 20 more off the bench from Andre Dawkins combined with tight defense to give the Blue Devils an 80-65 win over No. 18 Pittsburgh at a sold-out Petersen Events Center.
“It was a great team win,” said Duke forward Amile Jefferson, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. “Guys came to play. Guys were hungry. I think we’ve been hungry for about two weeks now, playing at a great level. And the great thing is we’ve been getting better.”
That arc of improvement has given Duke (17-4, 6-2 in ACC) five consecutive wins since suffering a 72-59 loss at Clemson on Jan. 11.
While they’ve all been good for the Blue Devils, walking off Pitt’s court with a double-digit win was the most gratifying. The Panthers (18-3, 6-2), who have won 89 percent of their games in Petersen Events Center’s history, saw their 14-game homecourt winning streak end.
Duke accomplished the rare feat by winning the hard-nosed battles. The Blue Devils won the rebounding battle 37-32 and limited the Panthers to 41 percent shooting. Pitt’s point total was 11 points below its season average of 76.3.
“I think we’ve figured it out,” Duke forward Rodney Hood said. “In order for us to win we have to play good defense. It may sound simple but it’s not that easy for a young group. We’ve been figuring it out.”
Hood turned in a standout defensive performance with his work against Pitt’s Lamar Patterson. On Saturday night, the 6-5 Patterson scored 28 points against Maryland and he carried a 17.9 scoring average.
But with Hood drawing the primary defensive assignment on him, Patterson hit just 4 of 14 shots, including 1 of 5 3-pointers, to score 14 points.
“I was just trying to make him work for everything,” Hood said. “Make him work for every single catch. Not just let him walk up and get the ball. It was tough. The bigs did a great job of helping me out on ball screens when he was the most dangerous. We did a great job on him collectively.”
Parker’s production (21 points, 11 rebounds) allowed him to lead Duke in both categories. But Dawkins’ perimeter shooting, making 6 of 7 3-pointers, was too much for Pitt to handle.
“We played hard. They played hard,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “But I think Andre was really the difference. You go 6 of 7 from 3, that’s pretty good.”
Duke led 34-32 at halftime and never relinquished its lead over the final 20 minutes. But the Blue Devils couldn’t pull away from Pitt until Dawkins spearheaded a 12-0 run.
With Duke up 52-51, Dawkins drove the lane and attempted a running one-hand shot. The ball bounced off the rim, but the 6-4 Dawkins tipped in his own miss with 9:25 left.
Patterson missed shots on Pitt’s next two possessions and each time Duke answered with a 3-pointer – one by Quinn Cook, one by Dawkins – to build a 60-51 lead.
Pitt’s next two possessions ended with turnovers thanks to deflections by Jefferson. When Dawkins missed his lone 3-pointer of the night, Jefferson grabbed the rebound, drew a foul and hit one of two free throws.
After another Patterson missed shot, Dawkins found himself open again to drill a 3-pointer that put Duke up 64-51 with 6:02 to play.
“Andre,” Krzyzewski said, “my players got some looks for him all of the sudden – boom! – we have a double-digit lead.”
The lead stayed in double-digits the rest of the night.
“We put ourselves in a hole with our defense,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We have got to get five guys defending together.”
The Blue Devils carved up Pitt’s defense with their motion offense, finding open shots and making 13 3-pointers to match their season high.
“I emphasized rebounding,” Dixon said. “Maybe I didn’t emphasize guarding the 3 enough.”
Now Duke takes its game, as efficient as it has been all season, to an even more difficult test. The Blue Devils play at No 2 Syracuse (19-0, 6-0) on Saturday night (6:30 p.m., ESPN).
They welcome the challenge.
“We’re getting contributions from everyone on the floor,” Jefferson said. “We are looking like a really, really good team."
No. 17 DUKE 80, No. 18 PITTSBURGH 65
Percentages: FG .483, FT .733.
3-Point Goals: 13-25, .520 (Dawkins 6-7, Hood 3-7, Parker 2-6, Sulaimon 1-2, Cook 1-3).
Team Rebounds: 3.
Blocked Shots: 4 (Jefferson 2, Parker, Plumlee).
Turnovers: 7 (Hood 2, Cook 2, Parker, Dawkins, Plumlee).
Steals: 5 (Cook, Hood, Parker, Jefferson, Sulaimon).
Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG .412, FT .750.
3-Point Goals: 5-12, .417 (Artis 2-3, Wright 1-1, Young 1-1, Patterson 1-5, Newkirk 0-1, Robinson 0-1).
Team Rebounds: 0.
Blocked Shots: 5 (Zanna 2, Artis, Young, Wright).
Turnovers: 10 (Patterson 5, Wright 2, Young, Jones, Zanna).
Steals: 4 (Robinson 2, Patterson 2).
Technical Fouls: None.
Officials_Ray Natili, Roger Ayers, Bryan Kersey.