for this game

No. 9 Pitt fends off Duquesne

Dec 6, 2007 - 4:00 AM By Chris Adamski PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) - Even though Pittsburgh only "traveled" about two miles down the city's Fifth Avenue, the No. 9 Panthers survived their first official road test of the season.

Pitt started off strong and fended off a spirited rally by intracity rival Duquesne for a 73-68 win Wednesday night in front of a hostile crowd at the A.J. Palumbo Center.

The Panthers improved to 8-0 with the win in the contest known as "The City Game" to western Pennsylvania basketball fans.

Sam Young scored 23 points, Mike Cook had 12 points and freshman DeJuan Blair 10 and nine rebounds for the Panthers, who are 8-0 for the sixth consecutive season.

Shawn James had 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks to lead the Dukes (6-2) in each category.

"This game proved that we can be competitive with any team in the nation," said Duquesne's Aaron Jackson, who had 11 points. "We missed some opportunities, but Pitt played pretty good and they beat us. I feel like we had a few chances to win the game and didn't do it."

It was the Panthers' first game this season away from the Petersen Events Center, where Pitt had won each of its first seven games by an average of 30.3 points and won all but one by at least 26 points.

But Pitt had its hands full with the Dukes (6-2) , a formerly downtrodden program that began the season 6-0 for the first time in 28 years under second-year coach Ron Everhart.

The Panthers have dominated the series against Duquesne in recent seasons, having now won seven in a row and 26 of the past 29 meetings.

"They did a good job paying against us, but we were still able to pull out a win," said Blair, a native of Pittsburgh who played several high school playoff games on this court. "We won, what can we say? We outplayed them, but they did a good job."

Pitt jumped out to a 14-0 lead and led by as many as 17 less than seven minutes into the contest, but the Dukes closed out the half on a 25-13 run.

"I think in the beginning, we came out and attacked," Cook said. "There was a lot of intensity, the intensity was real high and we were hyped up. We read everything they said in the paper. We came out and attacked them. As the game went on, we kind of got away from that, but fortunately we came out with a win."

Duquesne missed its first seven shots and was only 1-for-15 from 3-point range in the first half but still only trailed, 36-31.

"That wasn't us. That just wasn't us out there at the beginning," James said. "We've never started a game so flat and not doing what we normally do. Those first five minutes we were down, 21-4, and we knew we had to turn it up. That's what we did."

The Dukes cut the lead to one point just over two minutes into the second half and got within a point on a couple other occasions but never could tie or take a lead.

A dunk by James got Duquesne within 63-62 with 2:01 to play, but Young immediately answered with a 3-pointer from the corner off a fast break.

"Its tough when you're up by that much," Young said. "You make some mistakes. When the game is close, you've got to take advantage of every opportunity you get. It's kind of like that when you're up by that much, you kind of give them a lot of leeway."

Dukes senior center Kieron Achara nine points to help him eclipse the 1,000-point mark for his career.

Achara was fouled on his last basket with 1:18 to play but he missed the free throw that could have cut the lead to one.

Pitt's Levance Fields answered with a floater in the lane and two free throws to make it 70-64 with 33 seconds left.

"It's a tough game for us," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "It's their biggest game of the year. I don't think they have 5,000 people at other games. It was a great atmosphere, and we've had that every time we've played here. It's a good game for the city."