Jacob Hebda | Staff Writer
For the second consecutive year, Duquesne entered the City Game with high expectations, only to be stifled by Pitt, 74-53.
It was a competitive matchup, though Pitt eventually pulled away to grab the 21-point win at PPG Paints Arena on Friday, Nov. 30.
This most recent edition of the Dukes’ annual rivalry game against the Panthers was not one of the series’ more exhilarating battles.
The teams’ collective play could be best described as sloppy and lackluster offensively, as Duquesne and Pitt shot just 33.3 and 43.9 percent from the field, respectively.
After getting off to a hot start and grabbing an 8-0 lead, Duquesne could not find its rhythm, being outscored 74-45 the rest of the way.
Much of that could be attributed to Panthers’ strong defense, which limited Keith Dambrot’s team to its worst shooting performance of the season.
However, with 22 personal fouls and 22 turnovers, the Dukes certainly didn’t help themselves either. Pitt capitalized off those miscues, making 21 of 27 free throws and scoring 28 points off of Duquesne turnovers.
Whereas the Panthers were opportunistic, it was missed opportunities that crippled the Dukes. Arguably the most deflating was a missed layup by Eric Williams Jr. with 14:18 remaining in the game. The transition basket would have cut the deficit to four points, but instead, Pitt took control of the game. Duquesne never came within five points again.
Part of the reason Duquesne struggled on the court was the absence of Marcus Weathers, their usual starting power forward. Dambrot thought his team had a difficult time replacing Weathers’ experience, saying, “I’m not gonna make excuses, but we don’t have a lot of guys that have played that four spot.”
Freshman Austin Rotroff, usually a center, was decent in relief of Weathers, but his lack of experience showed.
It wasn’t all bad for Duquesne, though. Michael Hughes had arguably his best game of the season thus far, posting 20 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes for his first career double-double.
Outside of Hughes’ performance, however, Dambrot’s team had a difficult time generating offense. The sophomore center was the only Duke to reach double figures in points or rebounds.
Eric Williams Jr. struggled, making just three of his 10 shots and turning the ball over three times.
Duquesne guards Mike Lewis II, Sincere Carry, Tavian Dunn-Martin, Brandon Wade and Lamar Norman Jr. combined for just 15 points on 3-22 shooting.
According to Dambrot, “our guard play [has] gotta be better than that if we’re gonna win.”
In summation, just about every Duke besides Hughes had a rough night.
Pitt wasn’t great either, but Head Coach Jeff Capel got enough from his team to grind out the win. Four Panthers reached double-digit scoring, led by freshman Trey McGowens with 14.
Graduate transfer Sidy N’Dir was also clutch down the stretch, making a layup with 7:08 remaining to extend Pitt’s lead to 11 points. Then, with 4:37 left, N’Dir hit a 3-point dagger to essentially seal the game for the Panthers.
Ultimately, Pitt was able to take over late thanks to some big defensive stops and important scores. Duquesne struggled to find good shot opportunities, scoring just 13 points over the last 10 minutes of the game.
Mike Hughes didn’t seem to think this will be a recurring theme, however. He chalked up much of Duquesne’s poor performance to “uncharacteristic mistakes.”
He added that “we got a lot of young guys playing in an atmosphere like this, they’re not used to it … but it’s nothing we can’t bounce back from.”
The Dukes will be hoping that Hughes’ comments hold true, as the team returns to grand stage of PPG Paints Arena on Dec 19. Then, they’ll face another Pennsylvania Power 5 conference opponent as the Penn State Nittany Lions come to Pittsburgh.
Before then, Marshall (Dec. 5, 7 p.m.), Longwood (Dec. 9, 1 p.m.), Maryland Eastern Shore (Dec. 13, 7 p.m.) and Maine (Dec. 16, 12 p.m.) will make visits to the A.J. Palumbo Center, respectively.
This post was last edited electronically on Dec. 9 at 5:45 p.m.