Panthers men’s basketball falls to No. 24 Blue Devils 77-69, despite an 11-point halftime lead


AP Photo/Ben McKeown

Duke’s Dariq Whitehead (0) handles the ball as Pittsburgh’s Nike Sibande (22) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

By Brian Sherry, Assistant Sports Editor

Pitt head basketball coach Jeff Capel probably had Wednesday night’s game against his alma mater Duke circled in his calendar for a long time. Capel played guard for the Blue Devils in the ‘90s and later was an assistant coach under legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

But Capel surely hoped for a better result. 

Despite holding an 11-point lead at halftime, the Panthers (11-6, 4-2 ACC) fell on the road to the No. 24 Blue Devils (14-4, 5-2 ACC) 77-69. Pitt began the game on fire, holding the lead for much of the first half. But rebounding and foul troubles cost the Panthers down the stretch.

First-year guard Kyle Filipowski led the Blue Devils in scoring, dropping 28 points in the contest. Filipowski also dominated the boards, accumulating 15 rebounds throughout the game.   

Both teams battled in the opening five minutes, with neither team gaining a true upper hand. Duke first-year guard Tyrese Proctor hit a clutch early three-pointer, only for Pitt to fire off six unanswered points. 

But Pitt’s offense exploded toward the halfway point in the first half, firing off eight unanswered points with 11 minutes remaining in the first. Pitt ultimately battled to a 12-point lead during their run. Senior guard Jamarius Burton led the early Panther charge, scoring nine points in the first 10 minutes of action. 

Much of the Panthers’ early success came from their defense. Pitt racked up seven steals and three blocks in the first half. 

Pitt continued to defend its lead, but the Blue Devils would not let the first half get away from them. Two quick Duke three-pointers cut the Panther lead to just five. Filipowski stepped up big for the Blue Devils, sinking a key three-pointer during the Duke comeback. Filipowski ultimately led the Blue Devils in scoring in the first half with 12.

Duke lived and died by the three-pointer in the first half, throwing up 16 three-pointers in the period. The Blue Devils found moderate success with their three-point attack, scoring 15 points off of three-point shots. 

But Pitt continued to hold the steady lead, despite the Blue Devil’s success from behind the arc. First-year forward Guillermo Diaz Graham caught fire toward the end of the first half, hammering down a dominant slam dunk to re-energize the Panthers. Pitt ultimately went on a 9-0 run to end the first half and headed to the locker room holding a 43-32 lead. 

The Panthers came into the second half holding a comfortable eleven-point lead, but the Blue Devils were not fazed. The Blue Devils made the necessary second-half adjustments and dominated the early part of the period. Filipowski caught fire, scoring nine points in the first ten minutes of the second half. 

Duke slowly battled back, digging away at the once daunting Pitt lead. First-year Blue Devil center Dereck Lively eventually tied the contest, scoring a clutch field goal to tie the game at 52-52. 

With all the momentum in their hands, the Blue Devils took over. The Cameron Crazies erupted as Duke finally regained the lead with nine minutes in the game. Filipowski then threw down a dominant slam dunk to put an exclamation point on the dominant Duke second half. 

Pitt felt Duke taking over, but could not find a way to rebound. Burton made a costly mistake with eight minutes remaining, as he drew a technical foul to allow Filipowski to take two free throw shots. 

The Panthers struggled with limiting fouls down the stretch. The Blue Devils ultimately scored 23 points off of free throws, compared to only 13 from Pitt. The Panthers also continued to fall flat with offensive rebounding, as the Blue Devils outrebounded them 29 to 13 in the second half. 

But the Panthers began to fight back down the stretch. Two clutch free throw shots by senior guard Nike Sibande cut the Blue Devil lead to just five. But Proctor quickly answered back for the Blue Devils, sinking a difficult two-pointer to regain momentum. 

The Panthers continued to battle, cutting down the Duke lead to just four with a minute remaining. Pitt senior guard Greg Elliot found himself open on the three-point line but missed the shot. Duke finished out the game and walked away with a 77-69 win. 

The Panthers will continue their road trip against Georgia Tech on Saturday in Atlanta. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. and coverage will air on the ACC Network.