For most of this season Pitt was clearly the second best team in the ACC, but on Monday night Duke politely excused themselves past the Panthers.
The Blue Devils improved to 17-4 (6-2 ACC) and into a share of second place in the conference with their 80-65 victory.
Make no mistake Pitt is a very good team and for Duke to go into their home gym and win, and win in the fashion they did is impressive and a sign that the Blue Devils are becoming a very good team.
Jabari Parker dominated the first half and helped Duke take a 2-point lead into the half. Parker recorded another double double, 21 points and 11 rebounds, but got lots of help from his friends.
Rodney Hood had a modest 13 points and 3 rebounds but at times he was flat out dominant and his length gave Pitt’s Lamar Patterson fits. Andre Dawkins though, and rightfully so, may have been Parker’s biggest ally and asset.
The Blue Devil’s sharp shooter scored 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting (6-7 from behind the arc) and was flat out sensational as Duke pulled away in the second half. He hit clutch shot after clutch shot.
Once again Duke got a fabulous effort on the glass, both offensive and defensive (11/25) outrebounding the Panther 36 to 32. Amile Jefferson was a beast on the boards again recording 10 rebounds while scoring 14 points.
Marshall Plumlee who has come on strong of late as well added four rebounds of his own in another solid, but limited role.
Defensively the Blue Devils continue their significant improvements. They didn’t force quite as many turnovers as in previous games against a solid team like Pitt, but they forced 10 and capitalized on those turnovers with points.
After nearly two months of the season that saw the Blue Devils becoming one of the worst defensive Duke teams in recent memory, they have clearly righted the ship and it has started with aggressive play on the defensive end and the glass.
Duke also got help from Pitt who missed numerous chip shots and missed a few too many free throws, and the Blue Devils capitalized on Pitt’s mistakes.
Moving forward Duke finishes out a tough stretch with a road trip to Syracuse and a chance to draw closer to the Orange atop the ACC standings.
The Orange offer a much different challenge for the Blue Devils and as difficult a place as Petersen Event Center is to win the Carrier Dome is even more difficult, especially as good as Syracuse has been this season.
Duke will need to play at the same level, but another win should have the whole nation taking notice.