By JOEDY McCREARYDURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Grayson Allen scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half, and No. 21 Duke beat Pittsburgh 72-64 on Saturday in coach Mike Krzyzewski’s return after a four-week break following back surgery.
Amile Jefferson added 15 points, freshman Jayson Tatum had 12 and Luke Kennard added 10 to help the Blue Devils (18-5, 6-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) win their third straight.
Michael Young scored 24 points and Jamel Artis added 17 for the Panthers (12-11, 1-9), who have lost eight straight but the ACC’s last-place team gave its preseason favorite fits all game.
Pitt had the ball down 63-59 when Artis missed a 3-pointer in transition with about 1 1/2 minutes left. Allen countered with the shot of the day — a 3 with the shot clock winding down that bounced high off the front iron, then straight through, putting Duke up by seven with 49.7 seconds remaining.
By then, Krzyzewski could finally exhale in his first game back on the bench in more than a month.
He underwent surgery Jan. 6 to have a fragment of a herniated disk removed from his lower back, and in announcing his return Thursday night, the winningest men’s coach in Division I history revealed that he’s been attending practice for about 1 1/2 weeks.
The Blue Devils went 4-3 with associate head coach Jeff Capel running things in the interim, winning their last two on the road in a span of 48 hours.
Nothing came easy in this one, with Pitt leading for about 8 minutes and neither team leading by more than six points until there were about 5 minutes left.
BIG PICTUREPittsburgh: For the second time this week, the Panthers went into a nationally ranked Tobacco Road team’s arena and threw a scare into the hosts, losing 80-78 at No. 12 North Carolina four nights earlier. But they need someone aside from Artis and Young to step up. Cameron Johnson, who hit six 3s against the Tar Heels, was just 1 of 4 for three points in 35 minutes of this one.
Duke: All the key players are healthy again, and so is the Hall of Fame coach. The Blue Devils’ roster composition more closely resembles the team they were expected to be when they were picked No. 1 in the preseason Top 25. Now they’ve got to start playing that way.
UP NEXTPittsburgh: The Panthers’ best remaining shot at an ACC road victory comes Wednesday night when they visit Boston College.
Duke: The Blue Devils have a few days off before playing host to No. 12 North Carolina on Thursday night in the latest renewal of college basketball’s fiercest rivalry.
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.