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Pitt knocks off No. 15 Duke 78-62

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Jamel Artis scored 17 points to pace five Panthers in double-figures, ‪Pitt‬ annihilated No. 15 ‎Duke‬ on the glass and dominated the Blue Devils from start to finish, 76-62, on Senior Day at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday afternoon.

PITTSBURGH - Senior point guard James Robinson added 14 points and 7 assists as the Panthers added a much needed reference to their NCAA Tournament resume.

Sheldon Jeter (11), Michael Young (10) and Ryan Luther (10) also scored in double-digits as the Panthers shot 50 percent from the field and outrebounded the Blue Devils 39-20 on their way to their first victory over a ranked opponent.

“We actually promised him (Robinson) that we weren’t going to lose this game,” Artis said. “It was good to send him out the right way.”

Pitt had struggled defensively all season, as head coach Jamie Dixon reminds the media at every postgame press conference. This was undoubtedly the Panthers’ best defensive performance of the year, as the Blue Devils average 82.3 points per game, good for 15th in the country, and had won six of their last seven.

“We’re playing our best defense right now,” Dixon said. “It’s taken awhile, but we’re getting better.”

The Panthers made an astounding eight of their first 11 field goal attempts, with all five starters scoring early in the contest.

Pitt’s offensive success started with Robinson, who led the offense admirably in his last game at the Petersen Events Center, scoring seven points and adding four assists in the first 20 minutes. The Panthers had 11 assists on 15 made field goals, and led by seven points at the break.

“It was very good to see us execute on offense and defense,” Robinson said. “I think we had our best practice of the year (this week) …tonight we were just in the gaps.”

Duke’s leading scorer, Grayson Allen, shoots 48 percent from the floor, while scoring over 20 points per game. Freshman and future lottery pick Brandon Ingram has also been a key to Duke’s success of late. Ingram is the first Duke freshman with more than 50 3-pointers and 40 blocks in the same season, and he came into the game averaging 17 points per contest. 

Ingram led all scorers at the break with 13 points, and kept the Blue Devils in the game at points defensively with his ability to switch at nearly every position.

A knock against Duke this year has been lack of depth. Mike Krzyzewski’s side usually plays between seven or eight players. Today, 12 Panthers saw the floor, compared to only seven Blue Devils.

“They just outplayed us for 40 minutes,” Krzyzewski said.

This Duke team tends to live and die by the three, and Sunday it was their downfall, as they made only 11 of their 32 attempts. Pitt closed out extremely well on the Blue Devils’ supporting cast of shooters. While Allen and Ingram combined for 39 points, the rest of the team scored only 23.

“I thought we guarded the ball screen well and contained the penetration,” Dixon said. “We didn’t give them any second shots.”

For the second consecutive game Ryan Luther added a scoring punch off the bench, but this time he had some help. Luther and Sheldon Jeter combined for 21 points for the reserve unit, holding off a few tame comeback attempts by the Devils.

Pitt’s lead was uncontested much of the second half due to timely defensive stops and an extremely effective half-court offense.Pitt James Robinson and Jamie Dixon

In an emotional moment, Dixon subbed Robinson off the floor with 30 seconds left to a standing ovation.

“That was a very special moment to me,” Robinson said. “I don’t even know what to say...I’ve had a wonderful four years here.”

With the win, the Panthers dramatically improved their chances of making the NCAA Tournament. Pitt outplayed Duke in nearly every statistical category besides made free throws.

“We wanted to show Duke is a good team, but we’re a better team,” Artis said.

If Pitt wins their final two games—on the road at Virginia Tech on Wednesday and at Georgie Tech on Saturday—the Panthers could reach as high as the fourth seed in the ACC Tournament. If that happens, the question will not be if they are worthy of playing in the NCAA Tournament, but who their dancing partner will be.

Last season, however, Pitt dropped their final five games and of the season – their final three regular season games, an ACC Tournament game and the a first-round game in the NIT.

VIDEO LINK: Pitt's Sheldon Jeter threw down a fast break dunk vs. Duke, reminding the broadcast crew of Jerome Lane for Bill Raftery's famous "Send it in Jerome!" call from years ago. Watch Jeter "send it in" in this ACC Must See Moment!

VIDEO LINK: The Panthers jumped on the #15 Blue Devils early and didn't let up until they came away with the upset victory, 76-62.

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