The City Game ... not what it used to be for Pitt or Duquesne basketball
December 3, 2008 10:00 AM
Pitt sophomore center DeJuan Blair is the lone City League player in either lineup tonight.
City Game veterans Sam Young, left, of Pitt, and Aaron Jackson of Duquesne.
Sam Clancy in 1976
By Ray Fittipaldo Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
When Sam Clancy was a freshman at Pitt in 1977, he lost his first game against Duquesne by 22 points, one of the most lopsided defeats for the Panthers in the history of the series with their crosstown rivals.
Seventeen days later, Pitt won the Eastern Eight rematch. And so it was throughout Clancy's four seasons at Pitt. The Panthers and Dukes, playing twice and sometimes three times a year, traded victories in some heated contests that defined the rivalry known as the City Game.
"It was a big-time rivalry," said Clancy, who was 6-4 against the Dukes in his time at Pitt. "We played a lot of games in the Civic Arena, in front of packed houses. That's how it was. It was a fierce, competitive rivalry, but it was always with a mutual respect."
There is considerably less buzz surrounding the 77th game between the two schools tonight at the Petersen Events Center. Rivalries stay stoked because of competition. And this series has been mostly one-sided for the past couple of decades.
The Panthers will carry a seven-game winning streak into the game and have won 26 of the past 29 contests.
There are plenty of reasons that the rivalry has become less passionate over the years besides Pitt's domination. For one, when the teams competed in the Eastern Eight, the frequency of the games kept the series juiced. With Pitt in the Big East and Duquesne in the Atlantic 10, there is not as much animosity.
Radio, Internet: WWSW-FM (94.5), WBGG-AM (970), Internet video feed broadcast available at www.pittsburghpanthers.com. John Sanders will handle the play-by-play and Curtis Aiken will do the color commentary. Radio broadcast also available at www.pittsburghpanthers.com.
Pitt: Coming off 57-43 victory against Washington State. ... Holds 45-31 advantage in the series against Duquesne. ... Riding a 33-game winning streak against non-conference opponents at the Petersen Events Center. ... Led by senior F Sam Young (19.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg), sophomore C DeJuan Blair (15.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg) and senior G Levance Fields (12.3 ppg, 6.2 apg).
Duquesne: Coming off 95-72 loss at Duke. ... Has not beaten Pitt since December 2000. ... Led by sophomore F Damian Saunders (17.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg), senior G Aaron Jackson (16.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and sophomore G/F Bill Clark (10.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg).
Hidden stat: Duquesne owns the largest margin of victory in the series. The Dukes beat the Panthers, 100-66, Dec. 9, 1967. Pitt's largest margin of victory is 30 points in 2004.
Another reason is the lack of local players. DeJuan Blair of Schenley High School is the only local player for Pitt, and Duquesne only has two players from local schools -- Jason Duty and David Theis, both from Vincentian Academy.
When Clancy was in school, Pitt also had local players Sonny Lewis and Terry Knight on the squad. Duquesne had B.B. Flenory and Bill Clark.
"We tried to kill each other on the court, don't get me wrong," Clancy said. "But there was admiration between the players."
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said the rise of AAU basketball likely has taken away from all rivalries. With players getting to know each other through their AAU experiences, college players have formed something of a fraternity that has made many rivalries between schools more friendly than in previous generations.
"They're familiar with the guys," Dixon said. "That's common in our conference. It's a little bit different than it used to be back in the day. The familiarity with the players is pretty evident through our conference and our non-conference games. AAU has done that over the years.
"But the fact of the matter is Duquesne is in the city. Anytime we play, there is something different. An in-state game means something and makes it different for some."
Clancy knows plenty about rivalries from his days in the NFL and how they have their ebbs and flows. Before his arrival in Cleveland, the Steelers had dominated the series with the Browns. But during his four seasons there, the Browns beat the Steelers in seven of eight meetings.
"I haven't been back in town long enough to know what has happened to the Duquesne program," said Clancy, now an assistant with the Pitt football team. "But you lose something because it's gone. The city loses something. Listen, Duquesne had a great year last year. With their success last year, if they can put on a good show and start being competitive, it would be good for the rivalry. I'm a Pitt guy. I hope Pitt never loses to them again, but I think everyone wants it more competitive."
Duquesne played the most competitive game in the series since that 2000 upset last season, when the Dukes played the Panthers tough and lost, 73-68. But that is the only game that was not a double-digit victory for Pitt in its past seven wins against the Dukes.
Since West Virginia joined the Big East, Pitt's series with the Mountaineers has become its most heated. The City Game has taken a backseat, but the Panthers still have the game circled on their calendar.
"I wouldn't say it's as mean as the West Virginia rivalry or as big," Pitt sophomore Gilbert Brown said. "But it's just as big because it's an inner-city rivalry. They're right down the street. We want to make sure we play to the best of our ability against them and go out there and show something."