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Pitt, Duquesne renew annual City Game matchup Friday

Pitt+takes+on+Duquesne+in+the+City+Game+Friday+at+7pm+at+the+Consol+Energy+Center.++TPN+File+Photo
Pitt takes on Duquesne in the City Game Friday at 7pm at the Consol Energy Center.  TPN File Photo

Pitt takes on Duquesne in the City Game Friday at 7pm at the Consol Energy Center. TPN File Photo

Pitt takes on Duquesne in the City Game Friday at 7pm at the Consol Energy Center. TPN File Photo

By Jeremy Tepper / Senior Staff Writer

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On the outside, the yearly Pitt-Duquesne basketball series — dubbed the City Game — seems to have all the qualities of a legitimate rivalry.

They’ve played each other since 1932, the two programs are in close vicinity — just down the street from each other — and the matchups are often intense and physical.

Yet, there’s one thing missing from the series recently: competitive final scores.

Since Duquesne last won the game in 2000, Pitt has reeled off 14 consecutive wins against the Dukes and holds an overall 52-31 series lead. As Duquesne (6-1) prepares to face off against Pitt (4-1) at the Consol Energy Center at 7 p.m Friday, Duquesne guard Micah Mason said this could be the year the Dukes break the streak.

“This is the most confidence we’ve had going into a Pitt game, for sure,” Mason said.

Duquesne fuels itself with a fast-paced, high-scoring offense, averaging 86.7 points per game, good for 21st in the country. The Dukes have climbed at a rapid pace, making 51.4 percent of their shots, while also knocking down 10.9 threes a game, the eighth best in the country.

Pitt will try to match Duquesne with an offense that pushes the ball more these days under head coach Jamie Dixon. Though not quite as proficient as Duquesne, Pitt has averaged 83.2 points per game on 47.9 percent shooting.

Between the two high-scoring squads, Duquesne head coach Jim Ferry doesn’t expect this game to be a defensive slugfest.

“This is going to be an up and down game,” Ferry said.

Despite the similar offensive productivity, Duquesne guard Derrick Colter said his team has an advantage in speed.

“We’ve got a lot of speed and quickness, more than [the Panthers]. They’re slower than us,” Colter said. “We can push the tempo on them a lot, especially in transition.”

Due in part because of his high-tempo offense, Ferry said this is Duquesne’s best chance at beating Pitt simply because it’s his best team. Dixon has mixed feelings about Pitt’s offense so far — he’s happy with the productivity but disappointed with its accompanying mindset.

“At the end of the day, we can’t be a team that relies on making shots,” Dixon said.

Though Dixon prides himself on strong play in both categories, Pitt has been inconsistent in defense and rebounding this season.

Pitt has outrebounded its competition by 6.6 rebounds a game, 66th in the country. Defensively, Pitt ranks 119th in points surrendered, allowing 69 points per game. Dixon is very matter of fact about his team’s need to improve in both facets.

“The rebounding is a concern, the defense is the concern,” Dixon said. “The understanding, the sense of urgency is not where it needs to be to be a really, really good team.”

Defensively, Pitt will focus on containing Duquesne’s backcourt of Colter and Mason. Colter’s averaged 19.9 points per game with 2.7 threes, while Mason’s put up 16.9 points and 3.6 threes a game.

Ferry provided a different prognostication when scouting Pitt. Duquesne has a shorter team than Pitt, as the Dukes play in the less competitive Atlantic 10, as opposed to the ACC. While Pitt has 10 players that are 6-foot-6 or taller, Duquesne has six players of such stature.

That size, Ferry said, can give his team some troubles.

“It’s going to be a challenge to score on them with their size and their length,” Ferry said.

Though Pitt might stand tall over Duquesne, Purdue’s frontcourt dwarfed the Panthers in size, which helped lead the Boilermakers to a 72-59 win on Tuesday. When scouting for a game, Ferry said he watches his team’s previous game against the opponent, as well as three of the opponent’s games on the current season.

While he watched the Purdue game, Ferry sees little benefit in applying Purdue’s strategies — which relied on its size — in preparing for Pitt.

“That Purdue game’s not going to help me that much because we don’t have monsters like they do up front,” Ferry said.

But as long as Duquesne succeeds defensively and on the boards, Ferry said his team could pull off the upset.

“If we can defend and rebound with these guys, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Ferry said.

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Pitt, Duquesne renew annual City Game matchup Friday