Panthers blow out Louisville on the road 75-54


AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Louisville guard El Ellis (3) attempts a layup past Pittsburgh guard Greg Elliott (3) during the second half of a college basketball game in Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday, Jan. 18.

By Jack Markowski, Staff Writer

Pitt (13-6, 6-2 ACC) entered Wednesday night’s bout with struggling Louisville (2-17, 0-8 ACC) as heavy favorites, looking to avoid a trap game against its old Big East rivals. The Panthers did just that, cruising to a 75-54 victory at the KFC Yum! Center and earning yet another crucial ACC win. 

Redshirt senior guard Nike Sibande and graduate student guards Jamarius Burton and Greg Elliott each finished with double-digit point totals. The lethal backcourt trio decimated the Cardinal defense, especially in the second half. 

Following a slow start, Elliott picked up a pair of buckets on back-to-back possessions, giving the Panthers an early 7-5 lead at the 16:11 mark of the first half. Louisville re-captured the lead with a 7-0 run, putting the Cardinals up 14-10, thanks to a strong defensive effort that held Pitt without a bucket for four minutes.

During that period, junior forward Blake Hinson got into early foul trouble, picking up his second with an offensive foul at the 11:48 mark and leaving the Panthers in a precarious position. Hinson did not return for the remainder of the first half. 

Sibande snapped the scoreless stretch with a pair of three-pointers halfway through the first half, giving Pitt a 16-14 lead. The Panthers caught fire soon after with a 19-2 run that came from five-straight makes from behind the arc from Sibande, sophomore forward Nate Santos and first-year forward Guillermo Diaz-Graham.

Diaz-Graham’s hustle showed up consistently in the first half, as he came up with a pair of loose balls on the floor while totaling five rebounds. Pitt entered halftime with a 37-28 lead over the Cardinals. Sibande and Elliott led the scoring charge for the Panthers with 12 and nine points respectively. Junior forward JJ Traynor guided Louisville with seven.

The Panthers came out rusty to start the second half, scoring just two points in the first three minutes before a Greg Elliott catch-and-shoot three in the corner stretched their lead to 42-33 at the 16:40 mark. A pair of Burton buckets from inside the paint and another Elliott three gave the Panthers a 52-40 lead at the 12:17 mark. 

Pitt struggled with fouls early in the half, notching its sixth as a team just under nine minutes into the half. In addition to receiving help from their opponent’s foul trouble, senior guard El Ellis gave Louisville a little bit of life with a pair of baskets on consecutive trips down the floor, cutting the Panthers lead down to 54-45. 

Pitt quickly responded as a three from graduate student guard Nelly Cummings and a mid-range jumper from Elliott pushed its lead to 59-45. 

A Hinson three at the 2:45 mark effectively put the game to rest, as the Panther lead ballooned to 69-52 and squashed any hope Louisville had of a miracle comeback. 

A couple of common themes from the Panthers’ defensive efforts in tonight’s contest was their ability to force turnovers and bad looks all over the floor. They held Louisville to a 33.9 field goal percentage and had a consistent presence, particularly in the paint, that forced the Cardinals into making poor decisions and giving away possessions. 

The Panther’s ball movement was a major catalyst as well, as they recorded 21 assists and created high-percentage shots for their playmakers all game long. 

The Panthers will continue their conference schedule on Saturday against the Florida State Seminoles in Pittsburgh. Tip-off is at 3 p.m. and coverage will air on the ACC Network.