No. 12 Louisville holds off Pitt
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Whether it was Russ Smith slashing the lane to score or Peyton Siva slicing through the defense to dish an assist, Pitt didn't have an answer for stopping Louisville's ultra-quick backcourt.
Smith scored a game-high 20 points and Siva served 10 assists, but Gorgui Dieng delivered the biggest daggers as No. 12 Louisville snapped a three-game losing streak with a 64-61 victory over Pitt on Monday night at KFC Yum! Center.
“Siva did a great job of running his team — he ran his team to a ‘T' — and was in control the whole game,” Pitt senior guard Tray Woodall said.
Dieng, a 6-foot-11 junior center who had 14 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and five blocked shots, sank two free throws to give the Cardinals a four-point cushion with 12.7 seconds remaining to finish off the Panthers (17-5, 5-4) and put an end to their four-game winning streak.
Louisville (17-4, 5-3) had risen to No. 1 in the national rankings before losing in succession at home to Syracuse and on the road at Villanova and Georgetown.
“Gorgui really played a terrific game, and I thought all the guys looked for each other inside,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “That was a big-time, gutsy win against a team playing outstanding basketball right now.”
Louisville played short-handed. Starting forward Wayne Blackshear was out with a shoulder injury, and backup guard Kevin Ware was suspended indefinitely.
The Cardinals used a 12-0 first-half run to turn a 9-6 deficit into an 18-9 advantage, and they led by as many as 12 points in the first half. The Panthers endured a drought of 6:38 between field goals, from Woodall's 3-pointer at 15:53 until Lamar Patterson banked in a jump shot to make it 20-12.
“I know we're a good basketball team,” said Patterson, who finished with 10 points, two assists and four turnovers. “Stuff like that is going to happen, but we always find a way to stay there and give ourselves a chance to win. But going stretches like that without scoring and giving up easy baskets, that's us doing it to ourselves. Those are things that just can't happen if we're trying to win on the road.”
That Louisville only held a 32-26 lead at halftime spoke to its shooting woes; it made 13 of 31 shots from the field. Pitt finished with 15 turnovers and, despite shooting 43.9 percent from the field (25 of 57), made only 3 of 12 free throws. Woodall, who led Pitt with 14 points, missed the front end of a one-and-one with the Panthers trailing, 58-55, and 43.4 seconds remaining.
The Cardinals continually flustered the Panthers by running Siva off screens so he could drive and dish or bringing Dieng into the high post so he could feed an open forward on the backside. Louisville had 10 layups in the first half.
The Panthers managed to keep it close by snagging rebounds on the offensive boards, where Talib Zanna had six of his 10 and Steven Adams had five of his seven. Pitt held a 35-33 rebounding edge and scored 25 second-chance points.
The Panthers also got a spark off the bench in the second half from backup center Dante Taylor, who scored seven points and cut it to 41-33 with a three-point play before drawing his third personal foul. Patterson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the shot-clock buzzer to cut it to 45-40, and James Robinson added another trey to pull the Panthers within three, 51-48, with 6:00 left.
Smith answered with a 3-pointer for a 56-50 edge, and Luke Hancock added two free throws to extend the lead to eight, but the Panthers got a scoring drive by Trey Zeigler and a 3-pointer by Patterson to cut it to 58-55 with 1:14 left.
Louisville made 10 of 11 free throws in the second half, including all six attempts in the final 24 seconds, holding off the Panthers despite a 3-pointer by Woodall that cut it to 60-58 with 13.3 seconds left and another trey as the final horn sounded.
“It's a three-point game,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “We're not a one-play team. We've got to do things for 40 minutes. We didn't do things for 40 minutes. We didn't play well. I don't think we played well at any point in the game, any stretch.”