Duquesne basketball stuns Pitt in City Game
On the neutral court of PPG Paints Arena, the City Game took on a March Madness feel Friday, with an underdog upsetting a favorite on a generically painted court in a pro-style arena.
The red-clad Duquesne student section, seated behind one goal, was on its feet, in a frenzied state for much of the evening. Pitt partisans in attendance watched mostly in disbelief. Such games have been rare in the series' 21st-century history, which Pitt has dominated. With 51 seconds remaining, security crew began to make their way before the Duquesne student section to prevent students flooding the court in celebration.
It didn't work.
A sea of Duquesne fans and students rushed the court as the final buzzer sounded on a 64-55 Duquesne victory. Players were met with embraces by gleeful strangers and classmates.
“It hasn't been much of a rivalry and I think it is now,” Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said. “A credit to our kids and how hard they played.”
Emile Blackman scored 19 points for Duquesne (4-5) and Mike Lewis added 15, including 10 in the second half, to end the program's 15-game losing streak to Pitt (6-2).
Pitt's winning streak was the longest in series history.
Duquesne was helped that Pitt star point guard Jamel Artis did not play.
About an hour before Friday's tip, Pitt coach Kevin Stallings announced Artis had “failed to meet the university's high standards” and was suspended for one game. But entering the night, Stallings expressed concern regarding how his team seemed to get up for high-profile games early this season (see: Tuesday's win at Maryland), but played with a lower energy and intensity against lesser foes. Stallings didn't like his team's attitude during Friday's shoot-around.
“There was nothing about our play that was good enough to win,” Stallings said. “We didn't shoot it well enough, we didn't do anything well enough, offensively, to win. Our defense was just OK. It's what you get.”
There was little doubting Duquesne's motivation. The Dukes' last win in the series came in 2000 at Mellon Arena.
“We know the history of it,” Duquesne guard Tarin Smith said. “We know we haven't won in a while. We were pretty pumped for it.”
Duquesne led 47-38 in the second half when Lewis hit a corner 3 with 12:29 to play. Lewis held up three fingers toward the jubilant Duquesne student section, whose members were mere toddlers and children the last time the Dukes beat Pitt.
But Pitt, with more talent and size, clawed back into the game.
A Ryan Luther layup gave Pitt its first second-half lead, 48-47, with under seven minutes to play. But Duquesne rallied with another run against a Pitt defense that has been suspect this season lacking rim protection and quickness on the perimeter.
With 5:30 to play, Blackman hit a 3 — and flashed a smile — as Duquesne its lead increased to 53-48.
A Lewis jumper with 2:43 to play gave Duquesne a 55-51 lead, and three Lewis free throws with 2:01 to play extended the lead to 58-51.
Without the ACC's second-leading scorer, Artis, Michael Young, the conference's leading scorer, had to carry much of the scoring load for Pitt.
Young scored half (15) of Pitt's first-half points. But he wasn't efficient, making just 8 of 21 shots to finish with 19 points.
Only two teammates, Chris Jones and Cameron Johnson (5-of-16 shooting, 1 of 7 from 3), reached double figures in scoring.
“It's unfair to put the pack on his shoulders every night and deliver at the rate he's normally delivering at,” Stallings said. “Mike had a bad night, and I think that caused a panic in our team.”