No. 17 Duke passed a huge test Monday night, defeating No. 18 Pittsburgh 80-65 in the programs' first meeting as ACC foes. Riding the sharp shooting of Dawkins, who hit six of his seven 3-point attempts en route to 20 points in just 15 minutes, the Blue Devils were able to pull away from the Panthers in the second half.
"We got some looks for him, and all of a sudden, boom we had a double-digit lead," head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We played hard, they played hard, and I think Andre was the difference."
In the first half, it was freshman Jabari Parker who powered the Blue Devils. His 16 first-half points came in a variety of ways, displaying his arsenal of post play and a pair of 3-pointers. Duke (17-4, 6-2 in the ACC) headed to the locker room ahead 34-32 thanks in large part to six triples - two apiece from Parker, Dawkins and Rodney Hood.
Pittsburgh's go-to scorer, swingman Lamar Patterson, struggled in the first half, scoring just four points while committing as many turnovers. Hood drew the defensive assignment on the Panther star, and was able to frustrate him and contest his shots.
"He's one of the premier players in the country, [but] Rodney's a heck of a player too," Krzyzewski said. "Basically you had a wash there in Rodney and Lamar. They're kind of equal players.... Both those kids have to be exhausted. Thank goodness we have a player of Rodney's caliber to guard him."
Despite Patterson's initial struggles, the Panthers (18-3, 6-2) stayed neck and neck with the Blue Devils throughout the first half, compensating by attacking Duke's interior and getting to the charity stripe, where they converted nine of their twelve free throw opportunities.
Hood notched six first-half points, but all four of his first-half field goal attempts were launched from behind the arc. The redshirt sophomore made an adjustment after halftime, driving to the hoop relentlessly, pouring in seven points early in the final stanza and finishing with 13 points.
Neither team was able to create any breathing room until Quinn Cook hit a 3-pointer from the baseline with 8:50 remaining to give Duke a 57-51 advantage. Cook, who came off the bench for the first time this season after rolling both ankles in practice, finished with nine points, none bigger than that triple, the second bucket of what became a 12-0 Duke run. A few moments later, Dawkins followed with his third triple of the game to extend the Blue Devil lead to nine.
“I felt really good shooting around today,” Dawkins said. “[Associate Head Coach Steve Wojciechowski has] been telling me the last couple days that one of these games I’m going to explode, and today was that day.”With 6:07 left, Cook found Dawkins on a busted play as the shot clock wound down. Dawkins drilled another shot to give Duke a 13-point lead. Feeling streaky, he rose up again and drilled his fifth triple the very next time down the floor.
"Once he gets one, he can get three or four," Hood said.
It was another stalwart defensive performance for Duke, which has not allowed more than 65 points during its current five-game win streak. The Blue Devils also won the battle on the boards, 37-32, their fourth straight victory in that department.
Patterson finally got going, converting a 3-point play and knocking down his first 3-pointer of the game with under five minutes to play, winding up with 14 points, almost four below his season average. But it was not enough to ignite a Panthers comeback, as Cook found Amile Jefferson for a lay-up that became a 3-point play and a 70-57 Blue Devil lead. Jefferson was a steadying presence for Duke all game, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.As Pittsburgh tried to make a late comeback bid, the Panther defense forgot to guard the hottest person on the floor—Dawkins. Duke ran down the shot clock, then found Dawkins wide open in the corner for his sixth and final 3-pointer of the game, putting the game out of reach.
"You go back to the same thing, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it," Parker said of Duke's ability to keep finding a spotting-up Dawkins. "That's what we did tonight."