No. 20 Pitt locked down by No. 21 Louisville 59-41 in offensive struggle

Jan 14, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Raymond Spalding (13) blocks the shot of Pittsburgh Panthers guard Damon Wilson (3) during the first half at KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 14, 2016; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals forward Raymond Spalding (13) blocks the shot of Pittsburgh Panthers guard Damon Wilson (3) during the first half at KFC Yum! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports /

The No. 20 Pitt Panthers were completely shut down by the No. 21 Louisville Cardinals in an ugly, defensive 59-41 loss.

No. 20 Pitt came into the game tonight as one of the most proficient, high-scoring offenses, averaging over 86 points per game.

No. 21 Louisville came into the game ranked second in defensive field goal percentage (36%).

Something had to give.

And the Pitt offense turned out to be no match for the Louisville defense at the KFC Yum! Center.

The size of the Cardinals clearly affected Pitt, as Pitt could never get into a rhythm on offense.  Pitt had a season-high in turnovers (19) and shot a season low (28.6%) in a 59-41 blowout loss.  Pitt only made 14 of 49 shots, and the Panthers were 1 of 11 from the three-point line.

Pitt usually has an advantage in assists, but tonight they only had 4.  Credit needs to be given to Louisville’s defense, which completely locked down and frustrated the Panthers.  They had 10 steals against Pitt, who never really looked comfortable tonight.

Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals (14-3, 3-1 ACC) have now beaten Pitt (14-2, 3-1 ACC) seven times in a row.  Louisville came into tonight’s game looking to avenge its road loss to Clemson in its last game.

You could pretty much say that only two Panthers showed up to play tonight.  Junior forward Michael Young quickly scored 8 points, and he finished with 18 points on 7 of 16 shooting with 8 rebounds, while junior forward Jamel Artis scored 11 points.  Both committed four turnovers each though, but the other three starters combined for 1 point. 

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Yes, 1 point.  That will not get it done on the road.  Senior point guard James Robinson was 0 for 6 from the field with 3 turnovers and 2 assists.  He went into the game with the highest assist-to-turnover ratio in NCAA history.

Graduate transfers Sterling Smith and Rafael Maia were overmatched, while Pitt’s bench only contributed 11 points.  The bench typically scores 31 points per game, but Sheldon Jeter only managed to score 2 points.

For Louisville, senior forward Damion Lee scored 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals, while sophomore center Chinanu Onuaku scored 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 blocks.  Like Pitt, Louisville only made 1 of 11 three-point attempts, but the Cardinals improved their field goal percentage by dominating the paint in the second half of the game.

Pitt led 6-3 early, and 14-11 halfway through the first half.  The Panthers went on an 8-minute field goal drought until freshman Damon Wilson Jr hit a three-pointer at the 2:21 mark to make it 20-17.

At the half, Louisville led 20-17, so Pitt only made 1 field goal in the final 10:05 of the first half.  Pitt was lucky to still be in the game because the Cardinals also struggled from the field.

In the second half, Pitt’s interior defense collapsed, as the Cardinals opened up a comfortable lead and would go on to win by 18.  Pitt only made 6 shots from the field in 19 minutes of the second half.  The scoring droughts reminded me of last season, but much credit needs to be given to Louisville’s defense.  The ugly game morphed into an old-time Big East game.

Pitt came into the game with the best free throw shooting percentage in the country (79%), but they struggled there as well, making only 12 of 20 (60%).  The low-point of the game was when Jeter was fouled on a three-pointer and missed all 3 of his attempts.

Pitt’s only loss before today’s game was to No. 24 Purdue, who has the number 1 field goal percentage defense.  The best defensive teams in the country have locked down Pitt, only allowing one shot and no offensive rebounds.  A strong defense is the recipe to beat the Panthers, who are uncharacteristically a high-tempo offense this season.  Pitt only made 14 field goals and committed 19 turnovers.

The ACC is a very deep conference this year, and road wins are going to be tough to come by. The Pitt football team scored more points than the Pitt basketball team against Louisville this season.  This was difficult to watch tonight, but it is only one game and Pitt will just need to keep charging forward.  With a win against Boston College, Pitt can improve to 15-2.


Pitt will host Boston College on Saturday afternoon.