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Duquesne upsets Pitt for first victory in City Game since 2000

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Mike Lewis II scored 10 of his 15 points over the final 20 minutes, including five straight during a late game-turning surge to lift Duquesne to a 64-55 upset over Pitt on Friday night.

2000 was a long time ago.

Pitt fans were curious about this still-new coach named Ben Howland, DVD’s were the in thing and a bunch of Al Gore votes floated away from the state of Florida.

Oh, and it marked the last time a Duquesne basketball team defeated Pitt…until Friday night.

Dec. 2, 2016, in Duquesne basketball lore will now always be remembered as the year a scrappy-but-resilient group of kids knocked off Pitt, doing so in a 64-55 fashion at PPG Paints Arena.

Duquesne (4-5), who came in losing 4 of their last 5, utterly dominated the Panthers (6-2) in the second half, holding them to just 7 of 33 shooting (21.2%) and 0 for 12 from beyond-the-arc. The Dukes bottled up leading scorer Michael Young, who went just 1 of 11 from the field in the final 20 minutes. Young still finished as Pitt’s leading scorer with 19 points.

“This was a great win for our program, university and our alumni,” said the victorious Duquesne head Coach Jim Ferry.  “It hasn’t been much of a rivalry lately, and from what we have been through this year, that just shows how hard these kids worked tonight.  To show such character and heart, I’m so proud of those guys.”

The Dukes rallied around Emile Blackman, who led all scorers with 21 points, going 7 of 12 from the field adding in six rebounds in 37 minutes.

“It’s really big for our team we really needed this.  I mean this was special,” said Blackman who knocked down four crucial 3-pointers, including a 30-footer that put Duquesne ahead by five with just under six minutes left that really kept the tempo in the Dukes favor.

“We knew it was going to be difficult to score against their size,” said Ferry.  “I thought the kids played to their game plan though, and they trusted each other.  I’m really proud of our guys sustaining that lead in the second half.  I really thought that we came out as the aggressor to the start that second half.”

Guard Mike Lewis II served as yang factor to Blackman’s yin, as the freshman finished with 15 points, making some of the most crucial plays to secure victory, including two clutch free throws to cap an 8-2 run, and putting Duquesne up seven with at the 2-minute mark.

“It was huge for these guys to be in this basketball game, and they played a major role,” said Ferry about the youth impact in the game.  “When we were playing Kentucky, I left the three freshmen in the game because I wanted them to figure it out.  The expectations are up for these guys.  I thought they really stuck together today.”

Sophomore Tarin Smith chipped in with 15 points, while sophomore forward Nakye Sanders added four points and four rebounds in 25-minutes.

Altogether, Duquesne went 24 of 60 (40%) from the field, while keeping the rebounding margin close despite the size discrepancy, losing it 43-39, despite outscoring Pitt in 2nd chance points.

“We weren’t good enough on offense, we didn’t shoot it well enough and we really didn’t do anything good enough offensively to win the game,” said Pitt coach Kevin Stallings.  “I thought our defense was just OK.  They played much better than we did.”

Stallings continued.

“Mike just didn’t have a good night and I could even see that in the shoot around.  It’s unfair to put the pack on him every night at the rate he’s been delivering.  We needed some other guys to do a little bit more.  We didn’t have enough fire power to get it done.”

Young and the Panthers were short-handed due to the one-game suspension of Jamel Artis, who was disciplined for reasons detrimental to the team. 

Chris Jones, who played in Artis’ stead, finished with 38 minutes and a solid 11 points on 4 of 6 shooting.

“Chris was probably the only guy on the team (tonight) that played up to his capabilities,” Stallings said.

Cam Johnson served as the only other Panther in the double-digit scoring column at 14 points, going 5 of 16 from the field.

Storm that Court
A sea of red and blue took to center court as the buzzer sounded, as the Duquesne student section relished in one of its program’s biggest wins.

“That might have been the most special part of the night, watching the students rush the court,” Ferry said. “Duquesne hasn’t had that for a while.”

After the Spread
Even with the news of Artis being out, the Vegas consensus had Pitt a 14-point favorite in tonight’s game.  Duquesne served as 9-1 longshots for those daredevils that went straight for the money. 

Pitt is now 2-3-1 overall against the spread this year, while Duquesne is an even 3-3.

Next Up
Pitt will look to rebound when they host Buffalo on Wed, Dec. 7th at Petersen Events Center.  Tipoff is set for 7 PM.  Duquesne will play another one at PPG Paints Arena when it faces Robert Morris on Tues, Dec. 6th.  Tipoff is also set for 7 PM.

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