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Pitt sunk by dunks in setback vs. Louisville

| Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 11:12 p.m.
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Montrezl Harrell of the Louisville Cardinals dunks the ball during the game against the Pittsburgh Panthers at KFC YUM! Center on Jan. 28, 2013 in Louisville, Ky. Getty Images

There's a good reason Louisville players didn't dwell on their missed layups against Pitt.

They were too busy dunking the ball.

So uncontested were the Cardinals that they scored half of their points from point-blank range in their 64-61 victory over the Panthers on Monday night in a Big East Conference game at KFC Yum! Center.

It was so easy that Louisville slammed 20 points.

That's not a misprint: The Cardinals had 10 dunks.

“It's just too many layups. I don't care about dunks,” Pitt senior guard Tray Woodall said, shaking his head. “We want to hold teams to five, and they ended up having at least 14 layups.”

Actually, Louisville had 13 layups (making six) and took 23 of their 51 shots inside. It's no wonder it outscored the Panthers, 36-30, in the paint despite being outrebounded.

The simple response is to wonder why Pitt didn't just abandon its signature man-to-man defense and pack the paint with a zone, especially when Louisville shot 25 percent (7 of 28) from outside.

“We did,” Woodall said. “We went to a zone.”

It only caused confusion. Where Peyton Siva used double ball screens to speed past defenders against the man, Louisville brought 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng to the high post against the zone. Instead of leaving the responsibility of covering Dieng to the guards, Pitt's post defenders kept following him. That left Louisville forwards open for easy baskets on the backside.

“I thought our zone would be more effective,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, “but it wasn't so we played mainly man.”

Dieng dished four assists — second only to Siva's 10 — while showing slick passing ability that set up the forwards for flushes. Chane Behanan jammed eight of his 12 points, Montrezl Harrell slammed six of his eight, and Dieng dunked for six of his 14.

Pitt players blamed themselves for failing to make adjustments, saying there was confusion over who was supposed to cover the high post and who played low.

“They were getting the ball into the high post, and we were letting the big guys off for easy layups,” Woodall said. “We were indecisive as to who was supposed to guard the big guy, so we had both a guard and a ‘big' guarding him.”

Added Pitt junior swingman Lamar Patterson: “We didn't know who was supposed to go and who wasn't.”

Dixon dismissed the notion of a communication breakdown by the Panthers.

“We knew what we needed to do,” Dixon said. “We've practiced against it and knew exactly what we needed to do. We just didn't get it done.”

It all started with Siva setting up easy shots and Russ Smith slashing to score four layups, exposing Pitt's problems in its perimeter defense.

Dixon blamed the Panthers for failing to pressure the passers and get deflections in the passing lanes. Pitt forced only 12 turnovers while committing 15. It allowed Louisville 15 offensive rebounds, which led to 10 second-chance points, many of which were layups or dunks.

“You can't be in that situation,” Dixon said. “That's not communication. That's just not getting it done, simply put. It happened too many times.”

And from too close to the basket to miss.

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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