PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh point guard James Robinson buried his face in his sweat-stained jersey just before slowly raising his head and revealing a fresh cut under his left eye as he spoke with the media following the Panthers' 80-65 loss to Duke at the Petersen Events Center Monday.
Robinson, like his fellow teammates, concentrated on what they did wrong, how they can improve and what must be done before Sunday's game against Virginia.
But in his body language, Robinson looked like a man who knew his Panthers missed a chance to make a statement in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Monday's game, which pulled Duke (17-4, 6-2) into a tie with Pitt (18-3, 6-2) in the ACC meant more than a typical regular season game.
"This is our biggest win, because of the caliber of team we played against," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "Our respect for Pitt, not just their team, but their program, is off the charts. They've established themselves as one of the best teams in the country, and this was a hard-fought game."
Duke held a 34-32 lead at halftime, and the game stayed a one-possession contest until Quinn Cook made one of the Blue Devils' 13 3-pointers on the night to put Duke ahead, 57-51, with 8:50 to play.
From there, reserve Andre Dawkins took over, connecting on 6-of-7 from beyond the arc to finish with 20 points.
The Panthers trailed by double digits for the last 6:58 of the game.
"Duke outplayed us," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "Our defense let us down the entire night. I thought we'd come out and defend better, but we simply didn't. They played well, and I don't think we did."
Despite out-rebounding Duke in the first half the Panthers were outscored 12-1 on second-chance points.
"We were trading buckets, but we missed some shots we need to make," Pitt's James Robinson said. "They rebounded well, and that led to us struggling to stop their offense."
The Blue Devils' bench outscored Pittsburgh's, 29-12.
Since losing two of its first three ACC games, Duke has won five straight.
"We've played more people, and that helps," Krzyzewski said. "It helps us stay fresher when we're playing defense."
Along with Dawkins' 20 points, Duke got 21 points from Jabari Parker, 14 from Amile Jefferson and 13 from Rodney Hood.
Lamar Patterson led Pitt offensively with 14 points, but the Panthers shot just 2-of-8 from 3-point range in the second half playing again without long-range ace Durand Johnson, who is lost for the season with a torn ACL.
"I didn't think our offense was horrible," Dixon said. "We took a couple bad shots at the end, but I felt good about our offense. We just couldn't get stops. We put ourselves in a hole with our defense."
Pittsburgh jumped out to an 8-2 lead and led by as many as seven early on, but Parker, who is considered a lock for the NBA lottery if he decides to leave Duke after the season, took over the game.
The freshman scored 16 of his 21 points in the first half and helped Duke quiet the crowd and take a two-point lead into the half.
"They really outplayed us in the first eight minutes," Krzyzewski said. "I told them we had to fight harder. The game can go south real quick against a real good team, but we called a timeout and kind of picked things up."
Pitt and Duke will both play teams ahead of them in the ACC next. The Panthers host Virginia (15-5, 6-1) at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, and Duke travels to Syracuse (19-0, 6-0) on Saturday.
"I thought I emphasized rebounding, but maybe I didn't emphasize guarding the 3 enough," Dixon said. "I'm blaming myself, because that's how I do it here, but I know I addressed the rebounding.
"I think they have to know we have to win with defense, but maybe I have to make that clear to them."