By Adam Lindner | Staff Writer
Duquesne’s men’s team did something it hasn’t been able to do since 2000 on Friday night at PPG Paints Arena – beat Pitt in men’s basketball.
The chaotic state of the Duquesne student section translated well onto the court, as the high level of energy was evident throughout the night, even when the Dukes were struggling at times to hit shots. The buzz in the building propelled the Dukes to a stunning 64-55 upset win in the City Game.
“I owe a lot of credit to our fans, our student body came out, and they were tremendous. Hopefully we can continue to have our fans come out like that because it helps. It was great,” head coach Jim Ferry said.
Similarly, Pitt’s rather unenthused bunch of fans mirrored the play of the Panthers – who were possibly reeling from the sudden absence of their second-leading scorer, Jamel Artis. Sitting out for what head coach Kevin Stallings described as, “failing to meet the university’s high standards,” Pitt had to look elsewhere for scoring and didn’t find much of it.
Both teams came out hitting shots initially, but that trend would take a nosedive shortly thereafter. The Dukes failed to keep pace after the opening minutes and would trail by as much as 10 with 4:31 remaining in the first half. However, a 9-0 run would make the score 30-29 in favor of Pittsburgh heading into halftime and more importantly, swing the momentum in the Dukes’ favor.
Duquesne would come out in the second half with even more amplified fervor, which resulted in a quick lead. The Dukes took advantage of Pitt’s disarray and lack of resolve and jumped out to a 47-38 edge.
When the game appeared to be leveling out in terms of momentum, Rene Castro hit a three pointer, followed with one by Emile Blackman to extend the lead to 53-48 with 6 minutes remaining, which repositioned Duquesne to capture the win.
Blackman led the Dukes with 21 points, including an uncharacteristic but certainly helpful 4-7 night from 3-point land. Freshman Mike Lewis II contributed in a big way with 15 points of his own, and Tarin Smith also finished in double-digits with 12.
The move to a shorter bench rotation seemed to jump start the Dukes, who all played an inspired game with visible chemistry that’s been absent in previous games.
Pitt was led by Michael Young, who had 19 points, but shot 8-21. Pitt’s struggles can be encapsulated in their overall shooting woes: 33.3 percent from the field, 13.6 percent from downtown and 70.6 percent from the free throw line all hurt in a big way.
The shooting struggles that inhibited Pitt played a big part in the outcome of the game. Duquesne allowed many untimely second-chance opportunities, only of the Panthers not to convert.
As time dwindled down, it became evident that the Dukes’ energy was all that mattered – X’s and O’s thrown aside. With 20 seconds remaining, Eric James had a steal and dunk to make the score 62-53 and seal the upset over the perennially-favored Panthers.
Moments later, Duquesne fans clad in red bled onto the court of PPG Paints Arena, and a rivalry was restored. At least this year.
“That’s a great win for our program, our university, our students, our alumni,” Ferry said. “As you guys have printed and written and said, it hasn’t been much of a rivalry. It is now.”