Pitt lands a critical win as No. 15 Duke’s defense fails again

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
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On the last day of the second to last week of the regular season, Pitt finally managed to pick up their first marquee win of the season.

And boy, did they do it in emphatic fashion. The Panthers jumped out to leads of 9-0 and 22-8, leading by as much as 23 points as they ran the Blue Devils out of the Steel City, 76-62.

As we wrote earlier, this is likely not enough to get Pitt into the NCAA tournament on its own. They have just two top 50 wins to go along with a pair of sub-100 losses, which means that I’m not sure Pitt can survive losing at Virginia Tech, at Georgia Tech and in their first game in the ACC tournament.

That said, the bigger story here is probably that Duke has reverted to their old ways. The Blue Devils allowed Pitt to score 1.226 points-per-possession, which had a lot to do with the fact that the Panthers caught fire early and and stayed hot through the second half. They shot 50 percent from the floor on the night and 40 percent from beyond the arc, numbers that took a nosedive once the Panthers had this thing locked up. They also managed to grab 16 offensive rebounds — Duke had just 13 defensive rebounds on the afternoon — and turned that into 19 second-chance points.

When Duke appeared to turn a corner three weeks ago, it was because they started defending more consistently and they were able to get to the defensive glass and avoid giving up second chance points. That all disappeared on Sunday. Was that a result of a Sunday afternoon road game against a team that was desperate for a win? Was it a by-product of a team that has tired legs given how limited their rotation has become? Or did Duke just simply fail to show up, which is something that college kids tend to do when playing on the road?

Whatever the answer is, keep an eye on it next week. If the Blue Devils continue to get eaten up on that end of the floor as we head into the season’s stretch run, it may be time to hop off of that “Duke to the Final Four” bandwagon.