Louisville knocks off unbeaten Pitt

By Jay Huerbin

LOUISVILLE, Ky. ‘- Earl Clark recorded his eighth double-double of the season and hit a huge… LOUISVILLE, Ky. ‘- Earl Clark recorded his eighth double-double of the season and hit a huge shot in the final minute as the Louisville Cardinals upset then-No. 1 Pitt 69-63 on Saturday, ending the Panthers’ hopes of a perfect season. Clark, a junior forward, grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 16 points to lead the Cardinals. His jumper with 45 seconds left gave them a 64-58 lead and came as the shot clock expired. ‘Give them credit, they beat us,’ said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. The Panthers (16-1, 4-1 Big East) jumped out to a 13-point lead a little more than six minutes into the game, but the full court press of the Cardinals caused trouble for Pitt. Eight minutes later, Louisville (13-3, 4-0 Big East) took its first lead of the game, 24-23. ‘When you press the whole game, you’re going to have some turnovers,’ said Dixon. ‘And I thought we had too many … at the end of the day, 20 is too much.’ Pitt senior point guard Levance Fields played 39 minutes but shot 21 percent inside the 3-point line and turned the ball over six times. Louisville coach Rick Pitino said his team’s defensive effort was an important factor in the game. ‘I think we have [mental toughness] because we are a defensive team,’ said Pitino. ‘We are so good on our defensive efforts, we can come back, and we believe in that.’ The Cardinals’ offensive pressure also caused problems for the Panthers, as center DeJuan Blair and others found themselves in foul trouble early. ‘Our strategy tonight was to go at [Blair],’ said Pitino. ‘Our guys did a good job on that.’ Despite the loss, Pitt junior guard Jermaine Dixon scored 19 points and went 3-of-4 on 3-point shots. ‘He did a really good job. He hit open threes,’ said Jamie Dixon. ‘He’s been a good player for us all the way through, and he’s getting better as the year goes on.’ Terrance Williams added 20 points for Louisville, which jumped to No. 9 in the Associated Press poll with the victory. With a 55-47 lead and eight minutes left in the game, Blair committed his fourth foul and sat on the bench. Three minutes later, the Cardinals tied the game at 58, and Blair returned with less than four minutes to go. It was too late. Louisville went on a 6-0 run ‘- capped by Clark’s buzzer-beating jumper ‘- to seal the upset in front of 20,082 fans. The Panthers held a 32-30 lead heading to the locker room at halftime, but the game was far from over. Turnovers and fouls plagued Pitt in the first half and continued to do so. The second half started out well for Pitt, as it built a 10-point lead more than halfway through the period. But it was the Cardinals that played better basketball as the game went on. ‘We made great plays,’ said Pitino. Part of that smart play included holding the Panthers scoreless for 4:54 late in the game. Two Tyrell Biggs free throws with 18 seconds left finally broke the stretch, but Louisville knocked down its late foul shots for the victory.