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Foul shooting proves decisive as Louisville edges Pitt

The SportsXchange

LOUISVILLE -- No. 12 Louisville, which struggled with late free throws in recent games, went 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final 24 seconds Monday, and the Cardinals held on to beat Pittsburgh 64-61.

Playing in front of a crowd of 22,411 in the KFC Yum! Center, Louisville (17-4, 5-3 Big East) was clinging to a 58-55 lead when Chane Behanan hit two free throws with 24 seconds left.

Pitt's Tray Woodall answered with a 3-pointer with 14 second to go, making it 60-58, but Louisville's Gorgui Dieng hit two free throws with 12 seconds left. After a Pitt miss, Russ Smith sank two foul shots with four seconds remaining.

Woodall hit a long 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it only affected the final margin.

Smith paced Louisville, which snapped a three-game losing streak, with 20 points. He hit seven of 15 shots overall, three of seven 3-point attempts. Dieng had 14 points, 10 in the second half, to go with 12 rebounds and five blocked shots, and Behanan added 12 points. Point guard Peyton Siva made just one of seven shots and scored two points, but he had 10 assists and two steals.

"We played a really good game," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "We made our free throws at the end, we passed the ball really well, we defended well, we did a lot of good things. The one fault I have is that we didn't block out. We'll be working on blocking out this week."

Woodall scored a team-high 14 points for Pitt, which had a four-game winning streak snapped. Lamar Patterson was the only other player to score in double figures for the Panthers (17-5, 5-4). He finished with 10 points, but he also made four turnovers. Talib Zanna had 10 rebounds but made just two of nine shots and scored four points.

"A couple of things stood out," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They made their free throws, we didn't. (Louisville was 13 of 17, Pitt 3 of 12). We made too many turnovers. We're one of the best teams in the Big East at not making turnovers, and we made 15 tonight. And we gave them a lot of layups.

"Still, we were three points down with less than a minute to go. We had our chances at the end. Then fouls caught up to us. We fouled, they were in the double bonus, and they hit the free throws. What were they, 10 of 11 in the second half? Give them credit."

The Cardinals took command with a 12-0 run early in the game, grabbing an 18-9 lead. Pitt got no closer than six points the remainder of the half.

Smith started Louisville's run with a 3-pointer from the corner and ended it with a dunk on a run-out. The Panthers went scoreless for almost 4 1/2 minutes.

Also providing a spark for the Cardinals was freshman reserve forward Montrezl Harrell, who had six first-half points, four of which came during the 12-0 run. He finished with eight points and five rebounds.

Pitt center Steven Adams scored six points in the first half. The Panthers stayed in the game with offensive rebounds, getting five second-chance baskets before intermission.

Louisville opened the second half with five straight points, a layup by Dieng and a 3-pointer by Luke Hancock, and Pitt trailed by at least five points until closing within 49-45 with 6:51 left. It stayed close from there, but Pitt could never get over the hump.

"We did a lot of great things, especially passing the ball," Pitino said. "Pitt is a good team, and they're playing well right now. It's the Big East. That's what it's all about. A lot of good teams. We needed this win, and we got it."

Pitt center Steven Adams scored a team-high six points in the first half. He finished with just eight points and was 0-for-4 from the free-throw line.

It was a sloppy half, with Pitt committing 11 turnovers and Louisville committing six.

For the game, Louisville shot 45.1 (23-for-51), while Pitt shot 43.9 percent (25-for-57).

Louisville starting forward Wayne Blackshear and top backcourt sub Kevin Ware did not play for the Cardinals.

Blackshear, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, suffered a shoulder injury Sunday in practice. He is not expected to be out of action long. He was averaging 9.2 points, fourth on the team, and 3.9 rebounds a game.

Ware was suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules. The 6-2 sophomore guard was averaging 3.8 points and 1.5 rebounds a game. He had played in all 20 games before Monday.
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