Tray Woodall's season took a turn for the worse last year when he suffered a sports hernia in the annual game against Duquesne. Pitt's senior guard will have much better memories of his final City Game.
Woodall scored 24 points to lead the Panthers to a 66-45 victory against the Dukes on Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center. Woodall, who had offseason surgery to repair the hernia after missing 11 games last season, was 7 for 14 from the field and tied his career high with five 3-pointers. He also added five rebounds and two assists.
"He was tremendous," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "It might have been his best game."
The Panthers got off to another slow start and were tied, 15-15, with a little more than eight minutes remaining in the first half before Woodall asserted himself. He scored eight points the final 2:53 of the half, and the Panthers finished on a 14-2 run that produced a 29-17 halftime lead.
"We like to feed the hot hand," junior forward Lamar Patterson said. "He definitely had it today."
Woodall improved his season 3-point shooting to 39.6 percent. He entered his senior season as a career 32 percent shooter from behind the arc.
"He's improved a lot," Dixon said. "The main thing is shot selection. He has a much more compact stroke. He's in better shape. He's stronger. The main thing is shot selection. Sometimes, he makes one and he thinks he has to take that next one. In the second half, he did a really good job with that. His patience was very good overall."
Woodall is playing off the ball more this season because freshman James Robinson is handling the point guard duties. Duquense coach Jim Ferry, who watched Woodall as a high school player in New York and New Jersey when he was the head coach at Long Island University, has been impressed with the transition he has made.
"I think he's doing a great job," Ferry said. "I'm happy for him. He's accepted the role. He hasn't taken many bad shots. He's so threatening. If you have breakdowns, he'll make them. Obviously, James Robinson allows that to happen. That's a great combination."
Ferry also had some nice things to say about the Panthers as a team. The Dukes played No. 15 Georgetown Nov. 11 and lost, 61-55. Ferry said Pitt is "significantly better than Georgetown in my eyes."
"They're very balanced," he continued. "They have exceptional ball-handling. And they shot the heck out of it."
The Panthers were 9 for 17 from behind the arc for the fifth consecutive game above 40 percent.
The Panthers did not shoot as well from inside the arc. They made only 33 percent on two-point attempts and missed an inordinate amount of layups. Their ineptitude converting easy shots did not matter because the Dukes shot 31 percent from the field and did not compete on the boards.
The Panthers, who had been struggling in the rebounding department, grabbed a season-high 49 rebounds and allowed the Dukes to get only 31.
Freshman center Steven Adams had a career-high 14 rebounds.
He had nine offensive rebounds, one shy of the Pitt freshman record set by DeJuan Blair in 2007-08. Adams also contributed eight points, two blocks and a steal.
"Steve is a big body and he goes after the ball," Patterson said. "We see it in practice all the time. He just has to get comfortable. This game was a big boost for his confidence."
Senior guard Sean Johnson led the Dukes (3-5) with 13 points and had this to say after losing by 21 points: "I still think we can beat this team, but it is what it is."
Johnson might be the only person in Pittsburgh who thinks that. It was his fourth consecutive loss in this lopsided rivalry and the 12th in a row for the Dukes in the series that dates to 1932.
NOTES -- Patterson was the only other Pitt player to score in double figures with 13 points. ... Pitt had a 19-3 advantage on second-chance points. ... Duquesne's bench outscored Pitt's bench, 17-8. ... The Dukes were 5 for 21 from 3-point range.
Ray Fittipaldo: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @rayfitt1 First Published December 6, 2012 5:00 AM