Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Familiar Foe Routs Panthers Talent-Rich Duke Too Strong for 2nd Time in 10 Days

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Familiar Foe Routs Panthers Talent-Rich Duke Too Strong for 2nd Time in 10 Days

Article excerpt

DURHAM, N.C. - Thursday, two days before his team was scheduled to take on No. 5 Duke, Pitt coach Kevin Stallings was asked what his team potentially could carry over from its first meeting with the Blue Devils, which happened barely a week earlier.

"After you just got beat by 30 by them?" Stallings responded, with a chuckle.

Only 10 days separated the Panthers' 35-point loss to Duke Jan. 10 from their second meeting, a period in which Hawaii was briefly threatened by the prospect of an incoming missile, the federal government shutdown and Blake Bortles won a road playoff game, but only so much had changed in their corner of the world. Duke was still Duke, with an overwhelming glut of talent, and Pitt was still Pitt, a rebuilding program guided largely by freshmen.

In an 81-54 loss Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, that much was obvious. The Panthers were out-muscled, out-finessed, out-schemed and outplayed in just the same way they were 10 days earlier, almost as if no time had passed at all. A game with a 29-point betting line was just as much of a blowout as many anticipated.

To Stallings, his team's showing was much better than it was the first time around, which speaks some to where Pitt is as a program, that a 27-point thumping could be considered a mark of progress. As Stallings acknowledged, "that's a little sad." Though the two games came in such a compressed time frame, the loss also raises questions of improvement, how much the Panthers (8-12, 0-7 ACC) have made and how long it might take them not to beat elite teams like Duke, but merely be competitive with them.

"When we can be competitive with teams like this is anybody's guess," Stallings said. "I hope sooner rather than later."

The loss was the fifth in six meetings against the Blue Devils since Pitt joined the ACC in 2013. The defeats have been decided by an average of 19.8 points per game, with all but one of them coming by at least 14 points.

The Panthers youth and their subsequent struggles were perhaps best illustrated by Duke, a defensively deficient team that seldom presses, implementing a full-court press from the opening possession. …

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