Young scores 21, sending Pittsburgh past No. 13 Louisville into semifinals
NEW YORK (AP)—Rick Pitino didn’t glean any useful knowledge sitting behind Pittsburgh’s bench for the opening round of the Big East tournament. It’s simply where organizers decided to put him.
Too bad, because it’s quickly becoming evident the Louisville coach could use some help dealing with the Panthers come March.
Sam Young had 21 points and 12 rebounds, and hit a pair of free throws with less than a minute left in overtime to help Pittsburgh beat the No. 13 Cardinals 76-69 Thursday night and advance to the tournament semifinals.
Pittsburgh, which has knocked Louisville out of three straight conference tournaments, advanced to play No. 6 seed Marquette on Friday night.
“Give them credit for their defense,” said Pitino, who fell to 3-8 in his career against Pittsburgh and is just 1-3 in the tournament since joining the Big East.
“Our guys did a good job of fighting back to get into overtime. Sometimes it’s just about making shots. It’s a simple explanation,” he said. “But you’ve got to give Pitt credit. Their defense had a lot to do with it.”
Seventh-seeded Pittsburgh (24-9) outscored Louisville 12-2 to start the overtime, and its 74-64 lead with 30.9 seconds left was its biggest of the game.
“We went cold at the wrong time,” Pitino said.
DeJuan Blair added 16 points and eight rebounds for Pittsburgh, which has been to the last two tournament finals and six of the past seven. The Panthers are now 4-0 at Madison Square Garden this season, and 21-8 dating to the 2001-02 season.
“It was a great win for us,” coach Jaime Dixon said. “We battled through some things. We had foul trouble early, got performances from everybody. … And like I said, our defense has been getting better and better.”
Earl Clark scored 19 for Louisville (24-8), which struggled when Pittsburgh clogged up the middle and forced the Cardinals to take perimeter shots. Derrick Caracter, Juan Palacios and David Padgett had 11 points each, but they got virtually no help from their guard play.
“They were aggressive in their defensive game plan,” Padgett said. “We’ve got to give them credit. They played very well on defense. They were very aggressive in what they did.”
Young’s basket with 1:50 left in regulation gave Pittsburgh a 62-60 lead, and Clark’s putback with less than a minute to go knotted the game.
After a timeout, the Panthers held for the last shot—but may have held too long. Levance Fields made a move to the basket with just over 5 seconds left and got caught in the corner, where he heaved up a contested shot at the buzzer that clanked harmlessly off the rim.
Fields made up for the gaffe with six of his 13 points in overtime. Backcourt mate Ronald Ramon added four of his 13 in the extra session, including a runner in the lane off a loose ball that made it 70-64 with 1:08 left.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Ramon said. “DeJuan made a great pass, guys were in the paint trying to dig the ball. So the ball got loose and they were all trying to go for the ball. Once I got it, wide open lay-up.”
That the game came down to the final minutes should come as no surprise for these two teams. Pittsburgh beat Louisville by five in the first round of the 2006 tournament, and by six in last year’s semifinal, when the Cardinals were also a No. 2 seed.
Their only meeting earlier this season was a back-and-forth affair that ended after Padgett and Andre McGee each made a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to seal a 75-73 victory at Pittsburgh.
The two teams swapped the lead 10 times and were tied eight times in the first half of this one, before a late burst gave Louisville a 33-30 lead at the break.
The Panthers used a 9-0 run midway through the second half to build a 51-43 advantage, but Blair picked up his fourth foul a couple minutes later and Louisville closed in. Terrence Williams’ basket with 4:44 to go gave the Cardinals a 56-55 lead, and the teams matched baskets through the end of regulation.
“We battled through against a very good team,” Dixon said. “I’m so proud of these guys, every one of them. They just battled. That’s really the best way to sum it up.”