The 82nd edition of the City Game Saturday was entertaining and competitive for a long stretch, but, as has been the case more often than not in recent years, Pitt was a little too strong, too deep and too talented for Duquesne.
Cameron Wright scored a career-high 20 points and Lamar Patterson added 18 to lead the undefeated Panthers (7-0) to an 84-67 win against the Dukes (2-3) before a crowd of 11,146 at Consol Energy Center.
The Panthers have won 13 games in a row in the series and 32 of their past 35 against the Dukes. Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is 11-0 against Duquesne.
"This is the kind of game we expected," Dixon said. "We knew it would be hard fought, emotional, two teams getting after it. We got off to a pretty good lead to start the game, which is something we have done, but then they made their run and we didn't handle it as well.
"But we got back to doing what we do, we outrebounded them by a good margin, took care of the ball, but they made some shots. We wanted to drive the ball, we wanted to get in the lane, we didn't shoot it great from 3, but we got penetration and got in the lane."
Pitt led by only four points, 39-35, at halftime and trailed in the second half for the first time this season at 44-41 before making a 15-1 run over a five-minute span that enabled the Panthers to seize control.
Wright was the catalyst for most of that run. He made three field goals, a free throw, a steal and assisted on another basket. In addition his scoring, Wright registered a career-high in assists (5) and minutes (36) and contributed 5 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 steals.
"I give credit to my teammates, they set me up a lot," Wright said. "We have good guards.
"They are able to penetrate and kick it out and they are looking for me to shoot and, when you are wide open, you have to shoot.
"This is basketball, you have to be aggressive, and, if you are asking me, yes, I am definitely being more aggressive going to the basket [than last year]."
Pitt jumped to a 14-3 lead, and it appeared as if the rout was on but Duquesne's Desmond Ridenour hit a 3-pointer with 15:07 to play in the first half that seemed to get the Dukes rolling.
Ridenour's basket sparked a Duquesne spurt that eventually forged a 19-19 tie then a 21-19 lead on a jumper by Dominique McKoy with 8:38 to play in the half.
The two teams battled back and forth the rest of the half, but Jamel Artis made a late tip-in to give the Panthers a 39-35 advantage at halftime.
Duquesne opened the second half by hitting 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, then took a 44-41 lead with 18:22remaining on Tra'Vaughn White's 3-pointer from the wing.
But the Panthers tightened up defensively, and Wright went to work, sparking a 15-1 run that put away the game.
Lamar Patterson had another big game for Pitt with 18 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals and James Robinson added eight points and had nine assists.
Ovie Soko led Duquesne with 17 points and five rebounds, and Jeremiah Jones added 13 points and seven rebounds.
"He is a tough matchup" Dixon said.
Patterson added of Soko: "We didn't want him driving because, when you touch him, it is foul and, if you look, he shot 20 free throws.
"We wanted to keep him in front of us and dare him to shoot a jump shot, but, [when] he kept driving to the basket, we had to step off."
Pitt outrebounded Duquesne, 45-31, and the Panthers had eight steals but the key statistic for the Dukes was their 18 of 35 (51.4 percent) at the free-throw line.
Soko had an especially tough game from the line, making only 11 of 20, and Duquesne coach Jim Ferry said getting to the line was a big part of the Dukes' game plan. But he also acknowledged that it only works if you make those free throws.
"We can't miss 17 free throws and beat a team like Pitt," Ferry said. "We were shooting 71 percent from the line coming into the game but made only 51 percent, and not taking advantage of free throws like that, it was crippling because we are stopping them, but the score is not changing since we are missing.
"I think that took the wind out of us a little bit.
"We can't leave all those free throws on the line."
Dixon said the Dukes aggressiveness offensively led to the many free-throw attempts but pointed out that his team was 15 of 21 from the foul line, so the Dukes only had a 3-point advantage, even though they had 14 more attempts than Pitt.
"No way we can allow a team to take twice as many free throws as we did," Dixon said.
"We have to do a better job in that category, a much better job."
Ferry said the Dukes were able to get back into the game after falling behind early because they were more aggressive on offense and got to the basket, but they also got worn down by the Panthers' depth and size.
Duquesne, 9 of 18 from the 3-point line, played without starting guard and leading 3-point shooter Micah Mason (wrist), and Ferry said that was a big blow because he stretches defenses and forces them to guard the Dukes beyond the 3-point line. That results in more driving lanes.
"We got wore down," Ferry said, "they are a good team, a big team, a physical team.
"They are really a complete team and that makes them hard to guard."
Paul Zeise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1720 or Twitter: @paulzeise