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Duke pulls away from Pittsburgh for 80-65 win

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/27/21/55/sHXnN.Em.138.jpeg|375
    Chuck Liddy - cliddy@newsobserver.com
    Duke guard Andre Dawkins (34) fires up one of his second half three pointers from long range over the Pitt defense at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Monday.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2014/01/27/21/55/BrpPC.Em.138.jpeg|388
    Chuck Liddy - cliddy@newsobserver.com
    Duke forward Amile Jefferson (21) and Pittsburgh forward Lamar Patterson (21) battle for a rebound in the first half of play at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh, Pa. Monday Jan. 27, 2014.

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    No. 17 DUKE 80, No. 18 PITTSBURGH 65

    DUKEMinFGM-AFTM-AOR-TRAPFPT
    Parker347-195-72-111221
    Hood355-100-00-34113
    Jefferson275-54-56-102414
    Thornton140-00-00-0110
    Sulaimon271-70-00-0433
    Cook273-72-30-3619
    Jones50-00-00-0010
    Hairston40-00-00-1020
    Dawkins157-90-01-20120
    Plumlee120-10-01-4100
    Totals20028-5811-1511-37191680

    Percentages: FG .483, FT .733. 3-Point Goals: 13-25, .520 (Dawkins 6-7, Hood 3-7, Parker 2-6, Sulaimon 1-2, Cook 1-3). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 4 (Jefferson 2, Parker, Plumlee). Turnovers: 7 (Hood 2, Cook 2, Parker, Dawkins, Plumlee). Steals: 5 (Cook, Hood, Parker, Jefferson, Sulaimon). Technical Fouls: None.

    PITTSBURGHMinFGM-AFTM-AOR-TRAPFPT
    Young273-72-23-7019
    Patterson364-145-62-51314
    Zanna322-77-103-110311
    Robinson354-62-40-15210
    Wright344-80-01-3439
    Artis122-42-21-2008
    Randall60-10-00-1010
    Jones51-10-00-1032
    Newkirk131-30-00-1222
    Totals20021-5118-2410-32121865

    Percentages: FG .412, FT .750. 3-Point Goals: 5-12, .417 (Artis 2-3, Wright 1-1, Young 1-1, Patterson 1-5, Newkirk 0-1, Robinson 0-1). Team Rebounds: 0. Blocked Shots: 5 (Zanna 2, Artis, Young, Wright). Turnovers: 10 (Patterson 5, Wright 2, Young, Jones, Zanna). Steals: 4 (Robinson 2, Patterson 2). Technical Fouls: None.

    Duke344680
    PIT323365

    A—12,944. Officials—Ray Natili, Roger Ayers, Bryan Kersey.



PITTSBURGH Earlier in his career, Andre Dawkins tended to have breakout games, games in which it just seemed he couldn’t miss. He hadn’t quite had one yet, but Duke assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski kept telling him it was coming.

"I felt really good in shootaround today," Dawkins said after No. 17 Duke’s 80-65 win at No. 18 Pittsburgh. "Wojo has been telling me the last few days that one of these games I’m going to explode, so today was that day."

Dawkins, coming off the bench, went 6-for-7 from behind the arc—with four coming in the last eight minutes—as he scored 20 points in his 15 minutes on the floor. As a team, the Blue Devils, who rank ninth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage, hit 52 percent of their attempts (13-of-25).

Both Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon agreed Dawkins was the difference. Before Dawkins’ lone 2-point basket—a tip in off of an offensive rebound—the game had been in the single digits, with Duke leading 52-51. That basket, though, was the start of an 18-6 Blue Devils run that would put them ahead by 13 points, thanks in large part to three 3s from Dawkins.

"Dawkins was the key in the second half. He was open, and that falls upon us," Dixon said. "We tried different things. Our zone gave up two open 3s, we adjusted on some things guarding the handoffs and ball screeens, and we didn’t do those well."

While there was some debate amongst the Duke players as to whether this was their best game of the year, it was unquestionably their biggest win—on the road, against a ranked opponent that was in second place in the ACC, with just a loss at Syracuse.

An on-campus record crowd of 12,944, with some students camping out overnight in below freezing temperatures, witnessed the first Krzyzewski-led visit to Pittsburgh. And they saw a much improved Duke team.

For the second straight game, Duke was able to neutralize an opponent’s physical advantage in the paint. There had been 27 offensive rebounds against a taller Florida State Saturday. Three days later, against a Pittsburgh team renowned for its physicality, the Blue Devils outscored the Panthers in the paint (28 points compared to 16) and were able to turn 11 offensive rebounds into 20 second chance points (Pitt had just seven points to show for its 10 boards off the offensive glass). And, by Dixon’s count, the Blue Devils were able to score off of six different inbounds plays, including a 3-pointer that came from one of their offensive boards.

In typical Duke fashion, though, the Blue Devils attributed their offensive success to their improved play at the other end.

"In order for us to win, we have to play defense," Rodney Hood said. "It might sound simple, but it’s not that easy with a young group. We’ve been figuring it out."

Hood drew the toughest assignment, guarding Pitt’s point forward, the 6-foot-5 Lamar Patterson, who leads the Panthers in both points and assists. Hood was able to render him ineffective, as Patterson shot 4-of-14 from the field, finishing with 14 points, with just one assist against five turnovers.

Both Hood and Krzyzewski attributed some of the successful bottling of Patterson to switches on ball screens, when Duke’s big men would pick him up and not let him streak free for an easy basket.

Two months and three days ago—an eternity in college basketball—it was hard to imagine switches helping the Duke defense, as the Blue Devils’ inability to pull those off effectively led to a near-disaster, 91-90 win against Vermont.

But they’ve gotten better. It’s as simple as that. And it was easy to see on Monday night, the end of a three games in six days stretch (Krzyzewski calls these segments in a season energy cycles).

Now it’s on to the next cycle, which will start Saturday at No. 2 Syracuse—the other new power player in the ACC. Bringing 3-point shooting like Dawkins had at Pitt is advised.

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley
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