Panthers lose to No. 5 Duke for second time in 10 days

Posted on Jan 21 2018 - 10:23am by Cody Flavell
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Parker Stewart’s 15 points couldn’t help get anything going for the Pitt Panthers against No. 5 Duke on Saturday. (Photo: Jack Morton/wralSPORTSfan)

The No. 5 Duke Blue Devils (17-2, 5-2 ACC) pulled off their second big victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers (8-12, 0-7 ACC) in 10 days, this time by a score of 81-54.

For Duke, Wendell Carter Jr. lit up the box score with 21 points, eight rebounds, two assists, two steals and three blocks. Marvin Bagley II didn’t trail far behind as he dropped 20 points, had seven rebounds and one assist. The Panthers were led by Parker Stewart who had 15 points and three rebounds.

The game was just a classic example that things don’t change much over the course of 10 days and that the Panthers are just a talent deficient team that is very young with minimal hope to win at all in conference play this season.

Early on, the Blue Devils had stretched the lead out big time and, by the half, they were able to extend the lead to 22. One positive that did come out of this game was guard Marcus Carr’s solid first half as he reached 10 points at the half.

The second half woes continued for Pitt as they shot 41 percent from the field. While 41 percent isn’t as solid as a team would hope for, that had been one of their better totals of the non-conference schedule to date.

Pitt shot 4-of-16 (25 percent) from beyond the arc. Three of those were made by Stewart, the other had been made by Khameron Davis. Stewart has been the Panthers only threat recently from the outside.

Head coach Kevin Stallings liked the overall game on Saturday better than the first meeting between the two teams.

“Despite the score of the game,” Stallings said. “I thought we played honestly much better than we did the first game. That’s a little sad, getting beat by whatever, it was, 27.”

Stallings was then asked about how far away the Panthers are in being competitive in games against high profile teams like Duke.

“I don’t have any way of knowing the answer to that,” he said. “Obviously, my preference would be sooner rather than later.

A guard like Carr isn’t a program transcendent player, but he shows flashes of being capable of leading an offense that has to play in the nation’s best conference. His attitude reflects that of a solid kid off the court, too.

“We’re keeping everything positive, keeping the message positive,” Carr said. “There’s enough negative out there. We’re all positive with ourselves and with each other. We’re going to turn this thing around.”

Three Takeaway’s

  1. It was Marcus Carr’s best half in conference play. The first half started out so promising for Carr as he dropped 10 points. He only finished with 12 but the offensive aggressiveness and his dishing of the ball were crucial to his confidence. Carr showed tons of promise in non-conference play but ever since ACC play has begun, Carr has been a turnover machine and lacked scoring in the seven conference games. He showed signs in that first half that maybe he can turn the corner. The Panthers have North Carolina State on Wednesday, a team that obviously isn’t the caliber of Duke even though they beat them earlier in the year. Maybe that can be the turnaround Carr needs.
  2. Pitt just can’t hang with the premier dogs in the ACC. The Panthers are struggling to win basketball games in conference. This is no secret and, truthfully, was quite expected going in. What may not have been expected was the fashion in which they are losing. The Panthers have lost by an average of almost 20 points a game in ACC play and two of those blowouts were at the hands of the Blue Devils. Obviously, hardly a few teams, if any, in the ACC are even close to the level of mediocrity that Pitt has suffered this season. Pitt has work to do but they are definitely playing their hearts out. While heart isn’t always going to win you games, maybe it’ll prevail over a more talented team before the year is out.
  3. Duke is my early favorite to win the National Championship. I’ve sat down to watch some of the other top teams in the nation and I can say this: Duke seems to me to be the scariest team in the NCAA. Watching Malcolm Bridges and Michigan State fall to Michigan changed my opinion on them a little bit. Seeing the parity in the entire nation with some of the early upsets that have happened has really made it clear. The starting five of Bagley, Carter, Grayson Allen, Trevon Duval and Gary Trent Jr. have been outstanding to this point. Those are likely four or five NBA players in one starting five. While a few teams have this in their line up as well, this starting five seems to me to be the best in the nation. Good luck beating it come tournament time.