Louisville out-shoots Panthers, record 80-68 win
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
The Pitt Panthers haven’t necessarily conquered full-court pressure when faced with it this season. Many teams that Pitt has faced – from Florida Gulf Coast to Duke – have given the Panthers a fit with full-court presses in an effort to disrupt the flow of their offense and force them to begin their offensive sets later into the shot clock.
Louisville threw a full-court press at Pitt a couple plays into Saturday afternoon’s contest, and the extra pressure did not faze the Panthers.
Until the first half’s four-minute mark.
Pitt turned the ball over twice against Louisville’s press late in the first half, and the 2-point deficit that the Panthers seemed to maintain for the majority of the first half quickly became a double-digit mountain that Pitt couldn’t climb back over. Pitt would lose 80-58 before 12,508 fans decked out in gold t-shirts at the Petersen Events Center.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino said that two of his players, Chris Jones and Terry Rozier, have the best stamina of any two players he’s coached in 14 years at Louisville. Yet, Pitino said he intended to press more against the Panthers, but his players were out of breath and he does not go deep enough into his bench to do so.
“I told our guys, ‘We were going to press a lot after the first four minutes,’” Pitino said of his game plan. “After the first timeout, we’ll come out with our ‘heat.’”
The turnovers proved to be mistakes that Pitt could not afford to make, simply because Louisville shot very well from the floor and Pitt did not.
The Cardinals seemingly could not miss in the first half – canning 17 of their 24 shots (71 percent) – and they finished 30 of 46 from the floor (65.2 percent).
Louisville’s 65.2 shooting percentage set a new record for the statistic against a Jamie Dixon-coached team, and it was the highest percentage ever shooting percentage recorded by an opponent in the Petersen Events Center’s history.
“They started making a run with us making mistakes breaking their press,” Michael Young said after the game. “I think that broke the lead for them, taking advantage of our turnovers.”
Louisville jumped out to a 60-44 lead with 7:29 left in the game, and many Pitt fans in attendance headed for the exits.
Pitt flirted with a second-half comeback triggered by a technical foul issued to Louisville’s Chris Jones with 6:41 to play. The Panthers went on a 10-2 run and had opportunities to take a deeper stab, but they turned the ball over in transition and missed open shots with momentum in their favor as the game clock neared a close.
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville’s 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward who received AP preseason All-America honors, scored 18 points and pulled in 7 rebounds. Terry Rozier registered a game-high 26 points, and Louisville’s Chris Jones chipped in with 17 points and nine assists.
Pitino commended Jones for “setting up” Harrell in the low post, and he acted shocked by his team’s shooting performance.
“We usually win with defense, but tonight we won with offense,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after the game. “We did a real good job of passing against a good defensive team.”
Jamel Artis, who had an obvious mismatch with Harrell guarding him the entire game, stretched Harrell out beyond the 3-point line. He led Pitt with 18 points, 6 of which came from 3-pointers. James Robinson scored 16, and Michael Young gave the Panthers 14 points and 9 rebounds.