PITTSBURGH – Duquesne coach Jim Ferry watched Tray Woodall grow up in Brooklyn, N.Y., believing the little point guard with the shifty moves would one day become a big-time player.
Ferry was more right than he knew, and in Woodall’s final appearance in the City Game, the Pittsburgh senior provided Ferry with an up-close look at how far he’s come.
Woodall scored 24 points and tied a career-high with five 3-pointers as the Panthers rolled to a 66-45 win to beat their crosstown rivals for the 12th straight time.
“I think he’s doing a great job,” Ferry said of Woodall. “He doesn’t take many bad shots and now because he’s not, he’s so threatening. If you have breakdowns like we did, he’s going to hit shots.”
Heady territory for a player making the switch to shooting guard, a move Woodall went along with after watching freshman James Robinson blossom so quickly this fall. The arrangement allows Woodall to play off the ball and find open spaces, something he did with ease against a Duquesne defense that gave him too much room to shoot.
“He was tremendous,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “It might have been the best game he’s played here.”
Lamar Patterson added 13 points and freshman center Steven Adams had eight points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds for the Panthers (8-1), who pulled away after a sluggish start to continue their dominance over the Dukes. Pitt has now won 31 of the last 34 meetings between the schools separated by just two miles, and its current 12-game run is the longest by either program since the series began in 1932.
Sean Johnson led Duquesne (4-4) with 13 points but the Dukes shot just 31 percent (18 of 57) from the field and were never in it once Pitt got rolling midway through the first half.
“We played really hard, I didn’t think we played well,” Ferry said. “If you’re going to beat Pitt, you have to out-rebound them and we certainly didn’t do it today.”
Not with Adams having his way in the lane. The 7-footer from New Zealand is a work in progress but he dominated the paint. His nine offensive rebounds were the second-most in school history by a freshman and helped Pitt post a 19-3 advantage in second-chance points.
“He’s a big body and he goes after the ball,” Patterson said of his teammate. “I think he just needs to get comfortable. I felt this game was a good boost for his confidence. I expect to see the same from here on out.”
It would be a welcome development for the Panthers, who have won four straight overall by an average of 21 points. They had little issue against Duquesne in a game that showcased just how deep the chasm between the two schools has become.
Pitt wore down the smaller, younger Dukes with its depth and Woodall’s excellent outside shooting. The Panthers made 9 of 17 3-pointers in all to overcome a flurry of chippies that rolled off the rim and led an exasperated Dixon to joke the team will go through a series of layup drills in practice when they return to practice on Thursday.
Dixon can deal with the misses, however, if Woodall can stay hot. The Dukes helped by giving Woodall plenty of room to work with in the backcourt.
“I think we was helping off too much on him,” Johnson said. “He was getting his shot off real quick. By the time we would close out, the shot was up.”
And more often than not, it was in.
The Dukes are rebuilding in Ferry’s first season following a player exodus last spring that led to coach Ron Everhart’s ouster. Duquense plays seven freshman and sophomores and was picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10.
Still, Ferry believed the Dukes could compete with the Panthers if they pushed the pace and made shots.
They did neither during an abysmal first half. Johnson actually drilled a 3-pointer on Duquesne’s first possession but the Dukes wouldn’t score again for six minutes, clanging nine straight shots. Still, Pitt wasn’t much better and a conventional three-point play tied the game at 15 before the Panthers finally found a rhythm behind Woodall.
The team captain went down with an abdominal injury in last year’s City Game that changed the course of Pitt’s season. He missed a month and the Panthers never recovered, failing to make the NCAA tournament field for the first time in more than a decade.
Woodall is healthy now, and so is Pitt. He scored eight straight points over the final 4 minutes of the first half as the Panthers used a 14-2 run to take control and continue their mastery in a rivalry that remains heavily one-sided.
Pitt took a 29-17 lead into the half and the Dukes never got within single digits the rest of the way. Whenever they would try to make it interesting, Woodall would knock down a jumper. By the end, the Pitt student section was chanting “this is our house” at Consol Energy Center, a neutral site that is a couple of long 3-pointers from the Duquesne campus.
Ferry downplayed the idea his players were overcome by the venue.
“We could have played this game in a parking lot somewhere,” he said. “Pitt’s a really good team.”