Cardinals guard Donovan Mitchell shoots the ball against the Panthers in Kentucky.
Timothy D. Easley/Associated Press
Panthers forward Michael Young shoots over Louisville during the first half Thursday.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Pitt took its high-flying offensive act to an arena that never seems to be very hospitable to the Panthers, who found out that they aren’t unstoppable.
Louisville’s defense proved to be far too much for the Panthers to overcome as the Cardinals grinded out a 59-41 win in an old-fashioned defensive game Thursday night before a sold-out crowd of 22,090 at KFC Yum! Center.
It was the seventh time in a row the Cardinals (14-3, 3-1 ACC) have beaten the Panthers (14-2, 3-1) and they improved to 5-0 in the KFC Yum! Center against Pitt.
But Pitt will have a chance to get a measure of revenge Feb. 24 at Petersen Events Center when the two teams meet again.
The Panthers, who came into the game averaging 85.3 points per game, were held to a season low in points scored and it was just the second time this season they scored fewer than 60.
Pitt was also held under 60 by Purdue in December, and not coincidentally that was the Panthers’ only other loss this year.
But 41 points isn’t just the lowest point total of the season — it is the second lowest by the Panthers under Jamie Dixon and their lowest since they lost to Rutgers, 62-39, Jan. 11, 2012.
“We are not real excited about how we played, but give them credit, too,” Dixon said. “Certainly it was not our night. I can’t think of anything that we did well, and so we are disappointed by our performance.
“That happens, every team goes through it and we are going to respond in a good way. But again, obviously we didn’t do anything well. We had a lot of travels, we had a lot of unforced turnovers and our shot selection just wasn’t very good.”
The final point total was ugly, but not nearly as ugly as the stat sheet was for the Panthers because, as Dixon said, they didn’t do anything well, especially on offense.
Start with turnovers and assists — two categories the Panthers are among the best at in Division I, yet in this game they had 19 turnovers and only four assists.
In fact, Pitt was so bad on offense that more of the Panthers’ possessions ended in turnovers than made shots as they were only 14 of 49 (28.6 percent) from the floor and only 1 of 11 from the 3-point line.
Dixon said that a lot of that had to do with impatience on offense and also with a failure to share the ball and find the open man.
“You didn’t even have to watch the game, obviously the numbers don’t add up for us,” Dixon said. “We got off to a decent start, got some open looks, but then as we missed shots I think we just didn’t play well and it falls upon us.
“Every team has a game where they don’t feel like they play well, and it is all about how you respond to it and that is our task now.”
James Robinson, who finished with just one point, added: “A lot of it was us, we didn’t execute. We were forcing a lot of stuff on the offensive end, we just didn’t have the ball flowing like we usually do.”
Pitt had scored 80 or more points in the three games leading up to this game, but couldn’t get anything going for most of the game as the Cardinals switched defenses and clamped down on the Panthers.
As Dixon said, the Panthers got off to a good start and led, 14-11, after Jamel Artis made three free throws with nine minutes to play in the first half.
But Chinanu Onuaku, who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, put the Cardinals on his back and scored four consecutive points during a 9-0 run that put the Cardinals ahead, 20-14, after a steal and transition layup by Quentin Snider with 4:57 left.
Pitt freshman Damon Wilson hit a deep 3-pointer with 2:10 left in the half to pull the Panthers to within 20-17 at halftime, but that would be the final time either team scored before the half.
“We just continued to take guarded shots and we are not the team to do that,” Dixon said. “But with that said, we are only down three at halftime and we were in position and we felt like we could come out and execute in the second half, but we didn’t get it done.”
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