The Panthers' four-game win streak was snapped at Louisville Monday night. They had no answer for Russ Smith, who scored 20 points to fuel the 64-61 Cardinal win at the KFC Yum! Center.
"They're a good team at home. We needed to play better than this," Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon said. "We didn’t play well enough to win. We were playing better basketball but we didn’t tonight. We're a better team than we played tonight."
Pitt (17-5, 5-4 Big East) committed 15 turnovers including 11 in the first half. They only averaged 10 turnovers per game. They also shot a miserable 3-12 from the free throw line while Louisville (17-4, 5-3 Big East) shot 13-17 including four clutch free throws in the final seconds to ice the game.
The Cardinals stopped their three game losing streak with the win.
"A couple things stand out, the turnovers and the free throws. The turnovers especially, in the first half, dug a hole for us," Dixon said. "They made their free throws and we didn’t. They went to the line more than we did, they made more than we did."
The Panthers took an early 9-6 lead but Louisville tore off a 12-0 run and never looked back. The Cardinals took a 32-26 lead at the break fueled by Smith, who scored 13 points in the first half.
"We were down early. We dug a hole and tried to battle back," Dixon said. "I felt we could respond in the second half being down only six."
The Cardinals started the second half with a 5-0 run. The Panthers stayed close throughout the half and were down two points with 13.3 seconds left in the game after Tray Woodall hit a three-pointer. He led Pitt with 14 points including a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
However, Chase Behanen who is a 54 percent free throw shooter, hit both free throws and Georgiu Deng, who is a 67 percent free throw shooter, hit both free throws to ice the game for the Cardinals in the final seconds.
"The defense was not where it needed to be," Dixon said. "They got a lot of layups against us
We had a lot of drives and second chance opportunities that we didn’t convert."
Pitt out-rebounded Louisville 35-33 led by Talib Zanna with 10 rebounds and Steve Adams with 7.
It does not get any easier for the Panthers. They host the top team in the Big East on Saturday when Syracuse comes to the Petersen Events Center. Tip-off is at noon.