The Pittsburgh student section spent a full hour before Monday night’s game against Duke trying to get into the Blue Devils’ heads.
They roared during warmups, cheering every missed jump shot. They shook the stands during player introductions. They let out a year’s worth of anticipation every time someone dressed in blue touched the ball during a raucous opening 10 minutes.
Playing Duke is new for Pitt. Playing the role of the bad guy is nothing new for the Blue Devils.
No wonder they look so comfortable at it.
Jabari Parker scored 21 points, Andre Dawkins tied a season-high with 20 and No. 17 Duke pulled away from the 18th-ranked Panthers 80-65.
“This is one of our youngest teams so they’ve had to learn under fire and tonight we played very well and we played with a lot of poise,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “[Pitt is] really good. We play again, we may not beat them, but tonight we did because we had that poise.”
And they had Dawkins.
The fifth-year senior made 6 of 7 3-point attempts, including three straight during a decisive 15-3 run midway through the second half that put the Blue Devils in front to stay.
“We knew he could shoot,” Pitt guard Lamar Patterson said. “He hit a couple tough ones and that gets you going. Unfortunately we left him open, that wasn’t smart.”
Amile Jefferson chipped in a season-high 14 points for Duke (17-4, 6-2 ACC), which brought the Panthers’ hot start in their first Atlantic Coast Conference season to an abrupt halt. The Blue Devils made 13 of 25 3-point attempts to hand Pitt (18-3, 6-2) its first loss at home.
“Our breakdowns were often, early and continued throughout the second half,” Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said.
Patterson, in the midst of a breakout season, struggled. He scored 14 points on just 4-of-14 shooting, most of the points coming late in the second half when things were getting out of hand.
Parker helped Duke fend off some early game jitters before Dawkins poured it on. The senior, who sat out last year for personal reasons, needed only 15 minutes to give the Blue Devils the jolt they needed to win their fifth straight.
The Panthers have strolled through their first month in the ACC, their only setback a four-point loss to fellow Big East refugee Syracuse. They have posted road wins at N.C. State, Georgia Tech and Maryland, but the Blue Devils constituted a significant step up in class.
It’s a step Pitt didn’t quite look prepared for on a night the Panthers gave up a season-high in points.