- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A rivalry isn’t truly one unless both teams realistically have a chance to win when they meet. For years, that’s why the Pitt-Duquesne series was a rivalry in name only.

In what is called the City Game, Pitt has beaten Duquesne nine consecutive times while winning 28 of the last 31. Not much of a rivalry there. Still, the Dukes led by 16 points last year before losing 67-58 in double overtime in the final basketball game played at the Civic Arena. They also were on the verge of beating the Panthers in 2007.

While Duquesne hasn’t defeated Pitt since 2000, the Panthers no longer consider their once-a-year matchup against an opponent located only a few city blocks away as a name-the-score night. The teams no longer share a conference like they once did in the early 1980s, but their players face each other in the same summer league and regularly see each other in the offseason.

“It’s like a tournament atmosphere when we play them,” Pitt guard Brad Wanamaker said. “Both teams really go at each other. I grew up watching the Big 5 in Philadelphia and I didn’t realize what a Duquesne-Pitt game was like _ both teams jawing at each other.”

Of course, coming close isn’t the same as winning _ there’s no bragging rights associated with losing by two points rather than losing by 20. Duquesne hasn’t beaten Pitt since the Panthers began their string of nine consecutive 20-win seasons and NCAA tournament appearances in the 2001-02 season.

Duquesne coach Ron Everhart got no satisfaction from merely being competitive, yet he knows defeating No. 3 Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night will require one of the biggest upsets in school history. It will be the first basketball game in the new arena, where Pitt will play twice this season and Duquesne four times.

Duquesne has never beaten a team ranked higher than No. 6 nationally, and that victory _ over Bradley _ came in 1962. The Dukes haven’t beaten a ranked team at a neutral site since 1969.

“Arguably, they’re the best team in the country,” Everhart said. “What I’ve been proud of is we’ve had a higher degree of success playing against some great teams than Duquesne has had for a long time. But what we have to do is to beat Pitt. We’ve got to be able to go out and do it at that level, beat a Pitt or a West Virginia.”

That could prove difficult. Pitt has won 141 of its last 152 games in Pittsburgh, and has an average winning margin of 29.6 points per game during its five games in the city to date this season.

While the Pitt-Duquesne series is scheduled to be played at the Consol Energy Center annually, much of Pitt’s traditionally large home crowd is expected to show up. More than 12,000 tickets already have been sold in an arena that seats 19,100 for basketball.

“It’s a special game for us,” said Pitt’s Jamie Dixon, who is 7-0 as a head coach in the rivalry and 91-6 against non-Big East opponents. “It’s means more to the fans, it means more to the players.”

Dixon called last season’s game, one in which Pitt never led until overtime, “One of the most exciting games in college basketball last season.”

For Duquesne to make a game of it on Wednesday, the Dukes _ averaging 91 points per game _ probably must shoot well enough from the outside to get the taller Panthers to play at a faster pace than they want. Bill Clark, a 6-foot-5 senior, averages 17.8 points and is 12 for 23 from 3-point range in his last three games.

Pitt’s superior rebounding could prove to be a deciding factor. Of Duquesne’s top 10 players, only two are taller than 6-6. Pitt is outrebounding its opponents by an average of 16.2 per game while limiting them to 39 percent shooting.

Pitt also is more experienced; Duquesne starts two freshmen guards in Mike Talley and T.J. McConnell and a sophomore center in Rodrigo Peggau. McConnell was a summer league teammate of Pitt senior Gilbert Brown, who is one of four seniors or juniors who start for the Panthers.

The Panthers moved up to No. 3 in the AP poll this week, and Brown said they don’t want to stop there.

“We’d like to be No. 1 like we were a couple of years ago,” he said.

First, they’ve got to prove they’re No. 1 in the city.


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