PITTSBURGH, Pa.—In its toughest road test of the season thus far, Duke proved it had what it takes to win in front of a rowdy crowd in ACC play.
Led by a 14-point second half from Andre Dawkins and double-doubles from Jabari Parker and Amile Jefferson, the Blue Devils put forth a full-team effort in front of 12,944 roaring Pittsburgh fans at the Peterson Events Center. They rolled to an 80-65 victory and showed the ACC they have what it takes to beat a top team on the road.
“On the road, you’ve got to be tough. You’ve got to get stops,” redshirt sophomore forward Rodney Hood said. “Today, [Dawkins] got hot. If he didn’t get hot, we would have had to play the same amount of defense. It’s just a great team effort tonight. We beat a hell of a team in Pitt, and we’re excited about this one.”
Monday’s victory pulls Duke up to .500 in conference play away from Cameron Indoor Stadium. Although much of its success will be attributed to Dawkins’ 20-point performance, and rightly so—he was six-of-seven from long range—it was the play of the defense that allowed the Blue Devils to pull away.
After letting up an average of 75.5 points per game in their two conference road losses, it was Rodney Hood’s containment of Pittsburgh’s main offensive weapon Lamar Patterson throughout the game that allowed the Blue Devils to keep the Panthers under 70.
Patterson entered the contest averaging 17.9 points and 4.7 assists per game with a 51.3 percent field goal percentage. Hood held the redshirt senior to 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting and a season-low one assist.
“I wanted to make him work for every single catch he got, contest him, make him go back door,” Hood said. “I just fought him. He’s a great player and has been having a great year, especially in the ACC.”
But this game was about more than an impressive offensive or defensive individual performance for Duke. It proved to the rest of the conference that the Blue Devils can play on the road as a team and win in the toughest of environments.
“It’s our biggest win, because of the caliber of team we played against and their venue. This is a spectacular venue,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Prior losses on the road to Notre Dame and Clemson had many questioning the Blue Devils’ ability to stay mentally focused in front of tough opposing crowds. With success against the likes of Miami and Pittsburgh on the road, Krzyzewski cites the Blue Devils new lineup rotations as a key to the Blue Devils’ recent victories.
“We started out the conference in three games and, again, I take responsibility—we were not very good even though we won one game,” Krzyzewski said. “Since then, we’ve played more people and I think that helps. We’re fresher playing defense.”
Monday’s victory allowed Duke to prove itself to be an elite team—both at home and on the road. Hood and the rest of the team know they have yet to reach their ceiling and point to the past two weeks as proof of the Blue Devils’ constant improvement, something that will be integral as they move into the thick of conference play.
“We’re a better team than we were at the start of ACC play,” Hood said. “Regardless of playing on the road or at home, we’ve improved the last two weeks.”
The victory—Duke’s third in six days—sets up Saturday’s matchup with No. 2 Syracuse, one of the nation’s three remaining unbeaten teams. But the Blue Devils will get some much-needed rest for before traveling to New York to kick off another three-game, seven-day stretch.
“This is the end of what we call an energy cycle. Three games in six days,” Krzyzewski said. “Now we’ve got to get ready for another energy cycle after this.