Jabari Parker notched his third double-double in a row. Amile Jefferson had one of his own. And Andre Dawkins poured in 20 points off the bench in a convincing road win for the Blue Devils. Duke came in as a four point underdog, but proved to be the better team down the stretch as they pulled away from Pittsburgh in the second half to win by a score of 80-65.
The Blue Devils had used their improved rebounding and defense to overcome lackluster shooting so far in their four game win streak. On Monday night, in front of a record crowd at Peterson Events Center, Duke was able to find their offense and put together an impressive road win against a top 20 team.
Parker had 21 points and 11 rebounds and showcased his ability from all over the floor, hitting jumpers, driving to the basket, and playing strong in the post. He set a new record at Duke for most 20 point games as a freshman with 12, tied for 6th most in ACC history. Parker carried the Blue Devils offensively in the first half, scoring 16 of his points and giving Duke a 34-32 edge at the halftime break.
The game continued with back and forth action until midway through the second half when Dawkins went to work. Duke had a 52-51 lead with under 10 minutes remaining when they went on their game deciding run. Dawkins hit threes on three straight possessions, ultimately giving Duke a 13 point lead. Pittsburgh never got within single digits the rest of the way. Duke finished the game a ridiculous 13-25 from three point range.
The continuing story was Duke's ability to continue to play big around the basket. The Blue Devils out rebounded the Panthers 37-32, including 11 offensive rebounds. Marshall Plumlee continued to be effective guarding the rim and rebounding, while Amile Jefferson continued to be Mr. Dependable. The sophomore scored a season high 14 points and hauled in 10 rebounds to go with a couple blocked shots.
Duke continued their strong defensive play. Rodney Hood put in a tremendous defensive performance to complement his 13 points and 4 assists. Hood had the difficult task of guarding Pitt star Lamar Patterson, he proved to be up to the challenge. Patterson scored the majority of his 14 points after Dawkins had, seemingly, put the game away. Patterson shot only 4-14 from the field, finding it really difficult to get open looks. He also committed 5 turnovers.
Duke has to be pleased to have found their offense again after a few tough shooting performances. Not only were the Blue Devils shooting well from the outside, but the ball movement was much improved. Duke assisted on 19 of their 28 made baskets and found lots of success from the motion offense they ran for a large part of the game. Duke has found a strength in their dribble penetration and used it to create plenty of good shots.
Duke improved to 17-4 on the season. They have won five straight in conference play to earn a 6-2 record in the ACC. The Blue Devils have a few days off before their trip to the Carrier Dome where they will face undefeated, ACC leading, No. 2 Syracuse.
The Blue Devils ability to get in the lane will surely be tested by Syracuse' zone defense. If Duke wants to make things more difficult on the Orange they have to hope their hot shooting from long range carries over into the game this weekend. It will be difficult for Parker to get good position down low against the zone, so the Blue Devils have to be able to open things up with their shooting. Parker and Hood have shown the ability to work the baseline well on offense, that should be a focus point against the zone. Defensively they have to keep doing what they are doing. Keeping guard Tyler Ennis out of the lane will be important and Duke has to limit Syracuse to one shot attempt per possession.