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Pitt Takes It To Duke In The Garden, 65-64

Duke and Pitt put on a tremendous show in the Garden Thursday night which came down to a buzzer beating three pointer by Pitt to win, 65-64. Losing is never what anyone wants, but there are worse things than losing a game like this one.

What happened in a nutshell was this: Duke out-toughed Pittsburgh first, Pitt found their heart and turned the tables for much of the second half, and the last eight minutes or so was basically even until Levance Fields hit his clutch three pointer.

The other part of this which became fairly obvious was that it was a growing game for a still-young team. While Pitt grew more and more stubborn in the second half, Duke wasn't sure what to do and made a ton of mistakes. Some of them came down to poor communication, but others came down to being young and inexperienced.

Duke, you'll recall, has one senior, DeMarcus Nelson, a redshirt junior in Dave McClure who is still recovering from injury, and Greg Paulus, who is also a junior (and Marty Pocius, who is out).

Beyond that, it's sophomores and freshmen, and as good as they've been this year, they haven't been in that many games like this, and the inexperience showed.

The good news is that DeMarcus Nelson is showing some significant leadership - that driving layup which fouled out DeJuan Blair was sensational - and some other guys are trying to emerge as clutch players.

Despite the struggle of the second half, when the game was on the line, Nelson, Gerald Henderson, and Kyle Singler all had huge clutch plays. Henderson took over for a time, scoring when no one else was hitting much. And Singler's three pointer at the could tell he didn't just want the shot, he knew he was going to hit it - that was a sign of things to come.

But of course it wasn't enough. And the reason it wasn't enough was, quite simply, because Pitt had more heart and courage and forced Duke to play their game. Duke had no answer for Blair, ultimately, who dominated the boards and played superb defense before fouling out.

Although Pitt won the game, they may have lost something much more significant when forward Mike Cook went down with what seemed to be a severe knee injury. He is likely out for the year, and that will hurt Pitt's long-term chances, which is too bad because this is a really good team.

Back to Duke, though. After the game, Coach K said he was disappointed, and said that he didn't think Duke fought hard enough, and that "[w]e had some guys that played and didn’t have a rebound. You need to have rebounds, especially in a game where there are so many missed shots.”

That probaby refers to Lance Thomas, who played 15 minutes and didn't get a rebound, which pretty much fails the Krzyzewski Toughness Test.

The other two players who didn't rebound were the point guards, Greg Paulus and Nolan Smith. Paulus was pretty ineffective in this game. He had one basket, one assist, and five turnovers. You never know the reason why (or rarely anyway - in Thomas's case, he was coming off an injury which might have had something to do with his poor play), but Paulus is capable of much better.

One guy who gets no complaints about rebounding is Jon Scheyer, who ended up with 10, which was only two less than the entire starting lineup got.

Wow, think that'll come up in the team meeting?

He shot 1-10, but as he matures, Scheyer is emerging as an unusual talent. When he's at his best, he's just really, really aware on the court. It doesn't always show up on the stats, but his court awareness is beginning to look extraordinary.

Also, out of 61 shots, 39 came from three players - 12 from Singler, 17 from Henderson, and Scheyer's 10.

Duke only got eight points from the bench, which is way off of what they've provided lately. A lot of the credit for that goes to Pitt, of course, for roughing Duke up defensively. We're not suggesting they were dirty. They just knocked Duke back.

In the long run, this is not necessarily a bad thing. If the past predicts the future, you can probably expect to see some ramifications in the Cornell and Temple games, with some lineup tweaks, some minor, perhaps some major. Their toughness has been questioned, and players will be challenged to step up to a higher standard. How Duke responds to losses is one of the most creative aspects of the program, and one of the most interesting things to ponder.