Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett too much as Duke rolls over Jeff Capel’s Pitt Panthers

None of the many lessons Jeff Capel learned from Mike Krzyzewski could help his Pittsburgh Panthers against No. 2 Duke on Tuesday night.

That’s because Krzyzewski had Zion Williamson.

Duke’s fabulous freshman made his first 10 shots on the way to a 25-point night as the Blue Devils topped the Panthers 79-64 in ACC basketball at Petersen Events Center.

Capel played for Krzyzewski at Duke in the 1990s and was a Duke assistant from 2011 until he was hired to take over Pitt’s struggling program last April.

While the Panthers (12-7, 2-4 ACC) have already progressed under Capel after going winless in the ACC under Kevin Stallings last season, they were no match for Williamson, fellow freshman standout RJ Barrett and the Blue Devils (16-2, 5-1 ACC).

The 6-7, 285-pound Williamson scored 19 points in the first half alone when he made all nine of his field goal attempts. He finished 11 of 13 from the field and led Duke with seven assists while also grabbing seven rebounds.

The ACC’s leading scorer at 23.8 points per game, Barrett scored 26 points against Pittsburgh. Cam Reddish another Duke freshman, added 15 points.

The Blue Devils played without injured point guard Tre Jones (right shoulder) for the second game in a row. The freshman was on the Duke bench but not in uniform.

Duke shot 43 percent while Pittsburgh hit 41.5 percent of its field goals as the Blue Devils played mostly zone defense. The Panthers made just 3 of 15 3-pointers.

Trey McGowens led the Panthers with 14 points.

Setting for jump shots often in halfcourt sets, Duke made just four of its first 12 shots and the underdog Panthers led 16-15 seven minutes into the game.

Pittsburgh’s Kene Chukwuka (15) tries to shoot as Duke’s Javin DeLaurier (12) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Pittsburgh. Keith Srakocic AP

Improved ball movement made a difference for Duke from there. Williamson and Barrett took advantage to fuel a 12-0 Blue Devils run that gave them the lead for good.

Williamson scored seven points and Barrett five during the stretch that gave Duke a 27-16 lead,

After starting four of 12, Duke made seven of its next 12 to push its lead into double-digits.

Duke led 41-25 with 46.7 seconds left in the half when Capel grew frustrated with a foul call against Xavier Johnson as he guarded Barrett on a drive in the lane.

Capel slammed the scorer’s table with his first and, in animated fashion, protested the call. He engaged all three officials in his dispute before receiving a technical foul.

Barrett made three free throws giving Duke a 44-25 halftime lead.

After recording just six assists (on 26 field goals) in last Saturday’s 72-70 win over Virginia, the Blue Devils had eight on 16 field goals in the first half alone against Pitt.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.