Duke rolls past Pitt in Coach K’s final road game

Published 10:16 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2022

By Will Graves

AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH — Mike Krzyzewski’s final true road game at Duke ended like so many that came before it: with the fourth-ranked Blue Devils quickly quieting the crowd on their way to another blowout win.

Freshman guard Trevor Keels scored a career-high 27 points, Paolo Banchero added 21 and Duke clinched at least a share of its 13th Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title under Krzyzewski with an 86-56 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night.

The Blue Devils (26-4, 16-3) wasted little time making sure Krzyzewski would pick up his ACC-record 201st road win, taking a 13-point lead before the game was four minutes old and cruising.

Krzyzewski improved to 272-154 in road games with the Blue Devils. Two of the losses have come at the Petersen Events Center since Pitt (11-19, 6-13) joined the ACC in 2013, including a stunning upset by the Panthers a year ago.

Not this time. The Blue Devils are bigger, deeper and more talented than Pitt and locked up the top-seed in next week’s ACC tournament with ease.

John Hugley led the Panthers with 19 points as Pitt dropped its third straight following a three-game winning streak.

Duke won its seventh straight to earn at least a share of the ACC regular-season title for the first time since 2010. The Blue Devils won the ACC tournament too on their way to the fourth of the program’s five national titles under Krzyzewski.

The Hall of Famer’s final team at Duke remains a work in progress, but the Blue Devils have been the class of the ACC during a down year for a powerhouse league Krzyzewski has helped define for more than four decades.

Duke’s three conference losses have been by a combined four points, and they head into Krzyzewski’s final game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Saturday night against North Carolina with some serious momentum. The Blue Devils’ last two wins have come by a combined 55 points.

POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE

Pitt coach Jeff Capel played and coached under Krzyzewski before leaving to join the Panthers in 2018. Capel made it a point to honor his friend and mentor during a pregame ceremony that included a videotaped message featuring Capel, as well as former Duke star Dick Groat.

“Congratulations on the most amazing career in basketball,” Capel said. “You’ve given so much to the game and so much to us … I love you. I appreciate you. I am grateful for you and I wish you nothing but happiness and joy in stepping away from the game.”

Capel later presented Krzyzewski with a steel sculpture of a fist, with the four fingers and the thumb signaling the five pillars of Krzyzewski’s pillars of success.

The fist served as a metaphor for what awaited the Panthers, who were overwhelmed in the opening minutes as Duke raced to a 16-3 lead and was never really threatened.

Despite the comfortable margin, the 75-year-old Krzyzewski remained fully engaged.

After Pitt’s John Hughley opened the second half with a dunk, Krzyzewski sprung off the bench to employ Banchero to be more active, a talking-to that continued even after Duke quickly went back down the court to score. Krzyzewski animatedly led a timeout huddle even with his team up 24 and less than eight minutes to go, gesturing at each of his five players on the floor during the entire break.

A LASTING LEGACY

The family of former Panther standout Tom Richards awarded the men’s basketball program a $5 million gift to honor Richards, who died last October at age 66 following a long battle with cancer.

Richards was a point guard on the 1973-74 team that went 25-4 and reached the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament. Pitt will use the gift to help lead expansion and renovation efforts at the Petersen Events Center.

UP NEXT

Duke: Goes for the season sweep of the Tar Heels on Saturday night. The Blue Devils raced by North Carolina 87-67 in Chapel Hill on Feb. 5.

Pitt: Travels to Notre Dame on Saturday. The Fighting Irish edged the Panthers 68-67 on Dec. 28.

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