Sam Young gets by Duquesne's Damian Saunders and dunks. (AP)
Dec. 3, 2008
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- DeJuan Blair knows more about the rivalry called the City Game than any other Pitt player, so he was a little surprised when the No. 3 Panthers came off sluggish and tentative against the opponent they know better than any outside the Big East Conference.
Sam Young scored 23 points and Blair had 14 points and 17 rebounds, helping Pittsburgh overcome a sluggish start to defeat down-the-street rival Duquesne 78-51 on Wednesday night.
Jermaine Dixon scored 12 points as the Panthers improved to 8-0 for the seventh consecutive season, using runs of 9-0 and 11-2 to begin pulling away after the Dukes (4-2) led 20-19 with seven minutes left in the first half.
"We started off a little slow," said Blair, who watched both teams while growing up only a few blocks from each school's campus. "I don't know why. We had a little bit of a fight, but that made us come out better in the second half."
The two teams play in the same summer league and compete in informal offseason pickup games, but the once-intense rivalry between schools located two miles apart along Forbes Avenue has cooled off since Pitt moved into the Big East 26 years ago. The Panthers have won eight in a row and 27 of 30 in a series that peaked in interest in the late 1970s, when both belonged to the Eastern Eight.
Blair, a sophomore, won't be surprised if the rivalry becomes competitive again now that Duquesne, which improved from a three-win team to a 17-win team in only two years, is recruiting at a much higher level.
"It's a fun rivalry," Blair said. "I want to get out of here undefeated against them. It's going to be a good rivalry, a tough matchup, so that means we've got to keep working hard if we're going to get what we want."
Duquesne, one of the nation's youngest teams with eight freshmen and one of the smallest in a major conference with only one regular taller than 6-foot-5, has lost consecutive games to current top five teams. Duquesne lost 95-72 to now-No. 4 Duke on Friday.
"Duke comes after you with pressure defense, but Pitt is very intense when the ball leaves somebody's hand," Dukes coach Ron Everhart said. "They go to the glass like it's nobody's business. They have two different styles, but it wouldn't surprise me if both teams are in the Final Four."
Especially when both are currently in the top four.
"We see now what good teams do," Duquesne's Aaron Jackson said. "They're both in the top five, but they do all the little things, they do the extra things, and it's what we've got to start doing."
Pitt had too much size and depth for the Dukes, who were outrebounded 44-31 as Blair had 10 rebounds on the offensive end. Unable to go inside against the 6-7 Blair and 6-6 Young, Duquesne was constantly forced to try to establish an offense around the perimeter of a Pitt defense that allowed few followup shots or second chances.
Damian Saunders scored 15 points, but the Dukes shot only 36.4 percent (20-of-55), including 7-of-29 (24.1 percent) from 3-point range. They were worse still at the foul line, 4-of-12, and committed 25 turnovers to Pitt's 18.
Pitt took the lead for good at 21-20 as Blair scored inside to start the 9-0 run.
"In the first half, we played more of their game than our game," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said.
Duquesne trailed 32-26 with 1:48 left before halftime when Everhart drew a technical for arguing a foul call on freshman Marquan Bolding. Levance Fields made all four free throws to push the lead to 10, beginning an 11-2 run that carried into the second half.
After Saunders scored on a followup, Young dunked one-handed off a Dixon lob, Blair scored on a putback and Young drove to the basket for a 49-33 lead that effectively put it out of reach. Levance Fields added 11 assists and two steals.