Pitt falls to Louisville, 67-60, for the 8th consecutive time
February 24, 2016 11:23 PM
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon argues a call against his team as they take on Louisville in the first half Wednesday at Petersen Events Center.
James Robinson drives to the net against Louisville forward Deng Adel in the first half Wednesday at Petersen Events Center.
Louisville forward Chinanu Onuaku dunks against Pitt in the first half Wednesday at Petersen Events Center.
By Paul Zeise / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
No. 11 Louisville doesn’t have much to play for, as the Cardinals are not eligible for the ACC or NCAA tournament because of a self-imposed postseason ban.
But that doesn’t mean the Cardinals don’t have anything to play for, as they still have an outside shot to win at least a share of the ACC regular-season title.
Wednesday, the Cardinals cleared yet one more obstacle on the road to that championship as they came from behind to beat Pitt, 67-60, in front of a packed house at Petersen Events Center.
Although this game was much tougher for the Cardinals than the first time these two teams met — Louisville beat Pitt, 59-41, Jan. 14 at KFC Yum! Center — it was a continuation of their dominance against the Panthers.
Louisville has won eight games in a row against Pitt, improved to 5-1 at Petersen Events Center and coach Rick Pitino improved to 11-5 against the Panthers as Louisville’s coach.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said that while the Cardinals have indeed gotten the better of the Panthers in recent years, this particular game was more about his team’s inability to get stops down the stretch than any particular matchup issues.
“This one was different [than the previous losses],” Dixon said. “You have an eight-point lead, they have been good, but we have been good. Early on, the first few times, we beat them, but lately they are beating us. They have good players, but this game had nothing to do with the past.
“We’ve never been in a situation where we had an eight-point lead and let it slip away. They have good interior size, their [post players] are good, but we had some good looks that we didn’t knock down.”
Pitt (19-8, 8-7) led, 48-40, with 9:11 to play after a jump shot in the lane by Chris Jones that brought the crowd to its feet and forced a timeout by Pitino.
But Cardinals senior Damion Lee made a 3-pointer on the next possession that sparked an 18-10 Louisville run and the score was tied at 58-58 with 3:14 to play
That’s when little-used former walk-on guard David Levitch stepped up and hit the biggest shot of the game as he buried a 3-pointer from the wing with 2:34 left that put the Cardinals (22-6, 11-4) ahead, 61-58.
Louisville, which closed the game on a 9-2 run, never trailed again and Pitino said that this team, despite having so many injuries and young players, continues to prove it is one of the most resilient he has ever coached.
“Really, this has happened all year, we’ve come back all year,” Pitino said. “Now, we haven’t won all of them, but we have come back all year. And we had good free-throw shooters missing them at the end. That shows they were exhausted and speaks volumes about what they are all about.
“And [Levitch] ... it doesn’t faze him that this is a big game, he just made big shots. He has tremendous moxie, he came here as a walk-on, he came in at about 145 pounds, but he earned a scholarship this year and has helped us.”
Levitch finished the game with eight points and Louisville also got 12 points and seven rebounds from freshman Deng Adel. Dixon said that much production from those two was more than he expected.
“I’ve coached 41 years and I don’t think I have been as proud of a basketball team as I am this team,” Pitino said. “We have three frontcourt guys out, we were playing two walk-ons for long stretches in the first half, and we didn’t lose anything but instead got the lead.
“I feel like a proud father. I can’t be any prouder of a basketball team. We were undermanned but we played beautiful basketball at times.”
Pitt also got a big game from an unexpected source, although the way he has played lately, it shouldn’t be that unexpected. Sophomore Ryan Luther scored 17 points and grabbed five rebounds in 28 minutes.
Quentin Snider led Louisville with 14 points.
Pitt will get one last shot at beating a ranked opponent before the end of the regular season Sunday at home against No. 15 Duke (20-7, 9-5).
Paul Zeise: email@example.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.
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