Pitt basketball loses to Louisville, bringing streak to eight

By Greg Trietley

Louisville senior Kyle Kuric scored 21 points in his return from a left ankle sprain, and… Louisville senior Kyle Kuric scored 21 points in his return from a left ankle sprain, and freshman Chane Behanan added 19 more, as the No. 23 Cardinals beat the Pitt Men’s basketball team, 73-62, Saturday night at the Petersen Events Center.

The Panthers (11-9, 0-7 Big East) have now lost eight consecutive games, seven of them in conference play.

“We’re just not getting the job done,” head coach Jamie Dixon said after the game. “We’ve got some work to do, obviously.”

Pitt point guard Tray Woodall was ineffective in his return from abdominal and groin injuries, finishing pointless with two assists and three turnovers.

Dixon said that he doesn’t have a better way to shake the rust off Woodall than to have him on the court.

“Eight weeks is eight weeks,” he said. “Obviously his numbers are not indicative of how he was playing to start the year. I don’t know any other way to go about it. We have to get him out there.”

Woodall insisted after the game that he is healthy.

“My injury is not an excuse,” he said. “I’m back. I’m cleared to play. I didn’t have it today.”

Louisville’s Behanan and center Gorgui Dieng matched Pitt on the glass, as the Cardinals (15-5, 3-4 Big East) and Panthers each had 30 rebounds. Dieng had a double-double with 13 points and 14 boards, and Behanan had a career-high point total.

“We respected [Behanan]. We watched film on him. We saw how tough and physical he was down low, how he went after every rebound,” Lamar Patterson said after the game. “We just didn’t match it.”

Kuric silenced the energetic Petersen Events Center crowd throughout the night, hitting five 3-pointers to help break the Cardinals’ mid-season slump, which saw them drop three of their last four games and five of seven.

“We didn’t know if he was playing today,” Woodall said. “We knew he was a really good shooter. Especially with his injury problem, he was a lot more perimeter-oriented… We should have known.”

Pitt fed off the home crowd early—livened by the presence of ESPN’s College GameDay—to pressure the Louisville offense, and the Cardinals turned the ball over four times in the game’s opening six minutes. John Johnson’s steal and ensuing breakaway lay-up give the Panthers a 13-7 lead with 14:02 to go in the first half.

But Woodall recorded two fouls during the run, and the Cardinals surged with the junior point guard relegated to the bench. A 6-0 run erased Pitt’s lead and knotted the game at 13.

Pitt senior Ashton Gibbs said holding leads has been a major problem all year.

“That’s been the story of the whole season, honestly,” Gibbs said. “We’ve had leads almost every game that we’ve lost throughout this losing streak.”

Turnovers, fouls and poor rebounding hurt Pitt for the remainder of the opening half. The Panthers offense cooled, and three 3-pointers from Kuric and solid rebounding from Dieng in the paint gave Louisville a six-point lead in the final minute before intermission.

Patterson, though, gave Pitt some momentum heading into the locker room, as he hit a long-distance 3-pointer at the buzzer. Louisville led at the break, 31-28.

The Cardinals, though, quickly extended their lead to seven, 40-33, out of intermission. But a 3-pointer from Gibbs and strong play from Taylor at both ends revved up the crowd and brought Pitt within four with 13:04 to go.

That was as close as Pitt would get. With every push from Pitt, Louisville had an answer at the other end. A steal and fast-break dunk from Peyton Siva gave the Cardinals a 51-41 lead with 9:32 to play and forced Pitt to call a timeout.

“They took advantage of our turnovers. We made a lot of mistakes and unfortunately the turnovers we had they made into transition buckets,” Gibbs said.

Gibbs finished with 14 points, tying Patterson for the team high.

Siva, Kuric and the Panthers’ own inability to finish closed it out for Louisville, which shot 70 percent in the second half.

“The key to the game was we executed,” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said after the game. “We took good shots every time, whether they played zone or man.”

Dixon said Pitt let Louisville get hot in the second half by allowing open looks.

“I thought we got them going with some lay-ups and post-ups to start the half, and then they got some lay-ups, and then they made threes to get going,” Dixon said. “Those things kind of build upon one another.”

Neither team played a crisp game, as Pitt had 18 turnovers and Louisville had 17. The Panthers made one free throw on six attempts.

“It really came down to who was making shots and who wasn’t,” Dixon said. “They made their free throws, we didn’t, and they shot a better percentage from three.”