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Pitt’s Upset Bid Falls Short in Jeff Capel’s Return to Duke

Pitt's Justin Champagnie guards Duke's Tre Jones at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 28, 2020. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

Pitt’s Upset Bid Falls Short in Jeff Capel’s Return to Duke

DURHAM, N.C. — Jeff Capel has been part of countless wins inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. Between his time as a point guard for Duke from 1993 to 1997, and then his stint as associate head coach from 2011 and 2018, the Blue Devils won 283 games.

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But Tuesday night was different.

Capel was back in one of the most storied arenas in college basketball, but dressed in the visitors’ locker room and sat on the opposite bench. When his team made a good play, the Cameron Crazies did not cheer.

The Pitt Panthers fought hard – and even cut the lead to three points with about four minutes to play – but were ultimately unable to pull off an improbable upset of Capel’s alma mater, No. 9 Duke. Freshman phenom Vernon Carey Jr. piled up 26 points and 13 rebounds as the Blue Devils captured a 79-67 victory.

Leading Pitt (13-8, 4-6 in ACC) was Au’Diese Toney, who totaled 27 points and four rebounds. Justin Champagnie chipped in 13 points and seven rebounds.

Pitt’s usual go-to scorers, Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, combined for just 11 points on 3-of-17 shooting.

Duke (17-3, 7-2 ACC) didn’t own Pitt from start to finish. At the 9:35 mark in the first half, Pitt led Duke 16-15. But then, over the next six minutes or so, Duke broke off a 20-9 run to take a 12-point lead. The Blue Devils would go on to lead by as much as 17 points.

But after Carey connected on a lay-up at the 13:26 mark of the second half, Duke went on a bit of a scoring drought. Pitt buckled down on defense and executed on offense, breaking off a 16-4 run. Over that stretch, Duke missed six shots and turned the ball over three times. For a moment, they looked mortal, like the team that fell to Stephen F. Austin in November. Toney hit a pair of three’s and Champagnie threw down a pair of dunks during the run.

Eventually, Pitt cut the deficit to just three points with 4:26 to play after a Blue Devil was flagged for goaltending.

Duke quickly found its old self again though and went on a speedy 9-0 run to increase the lead back to 12 points with under two minutes to play. That stretch for Duke saw Carey Jr. – the son of a former Miami Dolphins’ offensive tackle – grab two rebounds and make two baskets. The run was punctuated by a three-pointer from Cassius Stanley, who totaled 11 points and seven rebounds on the night.

The loss is Pitt’s second straight and the fourth in its last six games. The defeat also continues an unfortunate streak for Pitt, as they have lost 20 straight road contests to ranked teams. The Panthers’ last victory against an AP Top 25 team was in 2013, when they beat Cincinnati.

Pitt remains one win away from tying their overall victory total from last season. The Panthers could match that mark Sunday, when they host the Miami Hurricanes.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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Terrence Otoole
Terrence Otoole
7 months ago

I love the way this team battles ,but trey and x are killing this team with there selfish style basketball

Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson
7 months ago

There is plenty of blame, not just those two. The bigs Defense is horrible their offense is worse, they don’t fight for rebounds and Murphy was a no show. I will say this again Champagnie is the most natural scorer on this team. Time to expand his role.Its hard to really be mad because these kids fight so hard. Trey and X need to learn where the mismatches are and who is hot. There is more talent on this team this year they don’t have to carry the team every night.Give credit to Toney he played very well.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
7 months ago

I think you have this game all wrong. I saw Hamilton battling against a much bigger man. Coulibaly made some nice plays. Really his best game. Tough on close-outs and eight points. Au’Diese was outstanding. We’ve got to build on this game for our offense

Richard Johnson
Richard Johnson
7 months ago

Exactly what did Hamilton do and Coulibaly looked lost. A freshman C totally dominated inside. We could never use those words for any Pitt Center, individually, or collectively. So what I am saying is the 3 of them are no good.

Clark Martineau
Clark Martineau
7 months ago

Totally wrong. Coulibaly faked out Carey. He has some inside moves and we could use 6 to ten points a game from him. He scored 8 points in the game. Hamilton had 6 rebounds in 9 minutes.

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