Oakland Zoo Revitalized, but Panthers Still Fall to Duke.
by Phil Stein and Sean Magguilli
After last year’s firing of Kevin Stallings on March 8th, the head coaching search became the biggest story in Pittsburgh basketball. After announcing Duke’s assistant coach Jeff Capel as the Panthers’ new head coach, all eyes immediately looked ahead to January 22nd, the next Pitt-Duke game.
Finally, it was time for the biggest game of the season. The students, and easily the biggest crowd all year, poured into the Peterson Events Center hours early for a chance at better seats. Some of them were lucky enough to meet Coach Capel as he handed out pizza and displayed some serious Panther pride. Game wise, fans did not have any delusions of grandeur about Pittsburgh’s chances against the number two team in the nation, but the fan base clearly showed that they are behind Capel and believe in him to complete this rebuild.
To the game action, the Panthers surprised everyone by being tied with Duke at 11 with 14:54 left in the first half. Duke took a slight lead 19 to 16 with 11:43 left in the first half but Pitt remained in contention. Duke went on a 12 to nothing run in a dominant 5 minutes which ended with them leading 30 to 20 with 7:05 left to go in the first half. Duke extended their lead to 14 with 3:53 left in the first half. Duke dominated the rest of the first half and led 44 to 25 at halftime.
Duke continued to dominate in the second half as they led 52 to 33 with 16:07 left in the game. Duke maintained their lead 61 to 41 with 11:46 left in the game. Pitt closed the lead slightly to 17, 64 to 47 with 7:50 left in the game. Duke maintained their lead 73 to 57 with 3:55 left in the game. Duke won the game 79 to 64 but Pitt fought hard throughout.
Pittsburgh could not hang with Duke because of consistent struggles on offense, and trying to keep Zion Williamson from the rim is basically impossible. They did outscore Duke in the second half, 39 to 35, but it was not enough to overcome their halftime deficit. Regardless, most everyone in the Zoo stuck the game out until the end, and showed what it meant to truly be a four quarter fan base.
The Panthers play their next game at #23 Louisville, this Saturday, January 26th.