Pitt bedeviled by Duke in 79-65 road loss


DURHAM, N.C. — Early on, the chant seemed prophetic, a curt premonition of what was to come. 

“We’re gonna beat the hell out of you.” 

Delivering the pregame message, en masse, were the Cameron Crazies, the famed student section of the Duke men’s basketball team. 

While it is, no doubt, a greeting bestowed upon all of the teams that travel to 75-year-old Cameron Indoor Stadium, it seemed especially appropriate on Monday night. 

Redshirt sophomore Chris Jones said the team didn’t feel intimidated playing in the famous venue.

“It was like every other road game, pretty much,” Jones said. “The crowd’s not with you. They’re against you. It’s gonna be loud.”

Whatever the cause, early on, the starter and his teammates appeared rattled. 

Pitt won the opening tip of its nationally televised prime time game against No. 5 Duke on Monday, but that was pretty much all it did well in the first half. Over the next two hours, the Panthers recovered well from that flat start, but not well enough, suffering a 79-65 defeat.

History suggested that a win, comeback or otherwise, was unlikely. The Blue Devils lost their first game of the season to Miami here, 90-74, six days ago. In the past 14 seasons, they have only lost more than one game at home twice in a season.

The scoreless period at the tip lasted 25 seconds and was the sole tie of the contest, the Blue Devils leading for 39:29 of a possible 40 minutes. 

Duke (16-2, 4-2 ACC) built its advantage and established its superiority immediately, going on a 7-0 run over 2:22 to start the game. 

During this same stretch, Pitt (13-6, 3-3 ACC) missed its first four shots, prompting head coach Jamie Dixon to call a timeout.

“The early missing of shots, good shots, open shots, put us on our heels and took away some confidence against the zone and kind of got us off to a slow start,” Dixon said.

His players appeared rejuvenated by this opportunity to collect themselves, getting on the scoreboard first when play resumed, but the gulf continued to increase, however, in large part because of the success Duke had shooting from 3-point range. 

Anytime Duke got the ball inside to players like 6-foot-11 freshman Jahlil Okafor, a projected NBA lottery pick, Pitt would double team that player, which freed up a teammate behind the arc for an open look. Most of the shots taken, they made, shooting 7-15 from deep in the first half. 

“That’s what hurt us a lot,” sophomore Jamel Artis said.

Despite picking up two early fouls, which resulted in his benching from 15:16 to 9:47, Artis finished with a career-high 21 points. 

His performance was among the few fleeting positives for the Panthers. The initial deficit they created remained, and they never led. 

“If we did get a stop, we’d make a bad turnover or a bad shot,” Artis said. 

After going into halftime down 41-25, the most points it has allowed in that amount of time this season, Pitt outscored the hosts 40-38, getting the difference down to single digits on multiple occasions.

“We knew we had to come out fighting, and that’s what we did,” Artis said. “If we didn’t, we would’ve gotten blown out by 30.”

The momentum didn’t swing enough, though, and with the final seconds running towards zero, the Crazies had one final message for the Panthers.

“Our house,” they said. “Our house.” 

The Panthers’ next game is at home on Sunday against No. 10 Louisville. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.