Sports do not surprise me. Weird things happen. That’s what makes them great.
What went down at the PPG Paints Arena was a surprise, better yet a shock. A court was stormed and a streak was broken. Duquesne was able to pull off one of the biggest wins in recent program history, taking down their crosstown rivals for the first time since 2000.
“It was a great win for our program, our university, our students, our alumni whenever you can win a rivalry game,” Jim Ferry said after the 64-55 victory.
“It’s just really big for our team coming off a tough start this season,” Tarin Smith said, who finished the game with 12 points. “I think we really needed this.”
Beating Pitt was something no one expected. Heck, I’m a Duquesne alumni and I thought there was no chance for the Dukes to win. I didn’t even think it would be close. Yes, Pitt was without Jamael Artis, who was suspended for the game. But they aren’t the same world beating program that bashed their way through college basketball. Outside of their victory Tuesday over Maryland, Pitt had yet to impress anyone this season.
But this was a Duquesne team that had been run out of their own gym by UMBC two nights earlier. They had played with leads throughout the season but had fallen apart in crunch time. They couldn’t defend from beyond the arch. They lacked a go to scorer.
It was different Friday night. The Dukes played with consistency and did not let the Panthers get the lead back in the second half. Pitt was shooting bricks all night, finishing 3-22 from beyond the arc. Emile Blackman, who was brought in as grad transfer to facilitate the loss of Micah Mason and Derek Colter, finally broke out from the field, scoring a season and game high 21 points, including 12 from deep.
“My teammates were looking for me I’m just trying to fit my role hit shots,” Blackman said. “Being a leader you have to do whatever is necessary at that point. In this game I had to hit a couple of threes, maybe next game I have to rebound more.
Blackman also reaffirmed a statement he made after some of the late game defeats.
“The late games that we lost are going to result in experience.”
It just didn’t come down to experience. It came down to heart. Duquesne showed they wanted it more tonight. Pitt looked to be on autopilot for much of the game, simply going through the motions. Maybe 15 straight wins over a rival will do that. It came down to pride and the Dukes showed they had more of it tonight.
“We have the names on the back of our jerseys but it’s really about the names on the front,” Ferry said. “It is a rivalry. These kids know each other. They play pickup basketball with each other at Pitt or Duquesne all the time, so there’s bragging involved.”
This win may not change outcome of this season. It may not help with ticket sales. It may not lead the students who stormed the court to attend more games. But it did do one thing for sure.
“It hasn’t been much of a rivalry. It is now.”