Duke dropped out of the AP Top 25 on Monday and its woes continued on Tuesday as it fell behind by 15 points in the second half during a 79-73 loss at Pittsburgh. The loss is the second straight for the Blue Devils (5-4, 3-2 ACC), whose most impressive wins are against ACC bottom feeders Notre Dame, Boston College and Wake Forest.
The game did feature one shining silver lining to suggest that perhaps Duke can get back on track and begin to build an NCAA Tournament resume. After missing three games with an ankle injury and then playing just four minutes in a loss to Virginia Tech in his return last Tuesday, freshman forward Jalen Johnson looked like a superstar against the Panthers on Tuesday.
Johnson, who was ranked the No. 13 overall player in the 2020 class by the 247Sports Composite, finished with 24 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, four blocks and two steals while playing 33 minutes and keying a second half rally. The versatile 6-foot-8 Johnson scored 16 of his points in the second half but couldn't outduel Justin Champagnie. The Pittsburgh sophomore, who was also playing just his second game since returning from an injury, scored 31 points and pulled down 14 rebounds to lead the Panthers (8-2, 4-1).
Champagnie missed two games with a knee injury following a prolific start to the 2020-21 season but has looked even better since returning, as his standout effort against Duke followed a 24-point, 16-rebound showing in a win over Syracuse on Saturday. Junior guard Au'Diese Toney contributed 22 for Pittsburgh and hit 13-of-17 free throws.
The Blue Devils entered Tuesday's action ranked No. 92 in the NCAA's NET ranking and sitting outside of CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm's projected NCAA Tournament field. The Blue Devils are scheduled to play at Louisville on Saturday. Pittsburgh entered Tuesday's game ranked No. 54 in the NET and in Palm's "First Four Out." The Panthers play at Boston College on Saturday.