Pitt holds off Duquesne in City Game
Ryan Luther played like a man Friday night, leading Pitt to a convincing 76-64 victory against Duquesne in the 86th City Game at PPG Paints Arena.
Afterwards, he was a man of few words.
“We're glad to get it back,” he said, speaking modestly of the City Game trophy awarded to Pitt after Duquesne seized it last year for the first time since 2000.
Actually, Luther said just enough, also praising his teammates for a determined defensive effort when the Dukes (2-3) rallied to within two points in the second half.
Finally, the senior from Hampton allowed himself a tiny but self-satisfied smile when after his last City Game, he said, “My senior year, it was good to go out on top.”
Luther led Pitt (4-4) with 16 points, nine rebounds and three steals and added four of his team's 19 assists. But the second-best performance of the night in front of a charged crowd of 10,118 belonged to Panthers coach Kevin Stallings.
He displayed a theatrical touch, pulling Luther while there was still time on the clock so he could receive an ovation meant only for him.
“Luther played like the best player on the court, which in my very biased opinion, he was,” Stallings said.
“I took him out there at the end. I wanted him to get an ovation. He deserves an ovation because of who he is as a human being.”
After Pitt stretched its winning streak to three, left unmentioned was Luther's decision to stay with the program this offseason when others couldn't leave fast enough. But Stallings knows.
“I feel real fortunate to coach him,” he said, in recognition Luther's loyalty.
Duquesne coach Keith Dambrot also had high praise for Luther.
“That guy can be a role player on any team in the country,” he said.
Dambrot lamented he was 0 for 2 at Akron in trying to recruit Luther and his cousin, former Pitt wide receiver Mike Shanahan.
“You'd think those Shanahans would treat me a little better than that,” Dambrot said. “I didn't get a sniff.”
Luther and his Pitt teammates treated Dambrot and his outmanned Dukes harshly, never trailing after taking a 3-2 lead.
Pitt led by as many 12 points before the Dukes cut it to 47-45 with 12:55 left in the game on Eric Williams' jumper. Williams, who recorded 18 points and eight rebounds, was fouled but missed the free throw.
Four minutes later, Pitt built the lead back to nine on two foul shots by Shamiel Stevenson, who scored 13 points and was one of four Panthers in double digits.
“I was proud of how our guys responded and kept their poise and composure,” Stallings said. “That could certainly bode well for us going forward.”
Marcus Carr had 15, and Parker Stewart, who hit 4 of 6 3-pointers, added 14 points.
Overall, Pitt shot better than 50 percent from the field (53.6) for the fourth consecutive game. Duquesne managed only 39.7 percent, the third time in the past four games a Pitt opponent failed to shoot 40. The Dukes' Mike Lewis scored 20, but Rene Castro-Caneddy, who was averaging 20, was scoreless on 0-for-7 shooting.
Williams said the Dukes were well-prepared but didn't execute when it counted.
“We can't keep having mental breakdowns during the game,” he said. “Even though we went over them 1,000 times, we gave up a few plays we knew they were going to run.”
Injuries have slowed Duquesne's progress in Dambrot's first season of a reconstruction project, and it showed Friday night.
Chas Brown (foot) played for the first time, and Eric James (knee) returned, but both were limited. Tarin Smith, who was averaging 12.8 points, played 23 minutes on a sore ankle but managed only two successful foul shots.
“My feeling is we are in disarray,” Dambrot said. “What I mean by that is when I had really good teams (at Akron), they knew what to do when. We have no consistency.”