That was a pretty disheartening loss. Pitt definitely had the game in its grasp, and let it slip away. There is not much to say about it either, because I simply think Louisville is more talented, and made more plays than Pitt did at the end of the game. There was a stretch of roughly 4 minutes or so where neither team missed a shot. That's pretty incredible, but I think most were left wondering who would be able to sustain, and I think simply Louisville answered that question. I think it's fair to say Pitt let the game slip away, but the other half of that is Louisville needs to make those plays to get themselves the game. They're a pretty damn good team, and Pitt is just not at that level.
Let's discuss Ryan Luther. Wow. Just wow. He made a couple of mistakes tonight, but he single handily kept Pitt in this game. He did a little bit of everything. He finished with 17 points on 6-8 shooting. He was 2-3 from 3 point range, had 5 rebounds (3 Offensive), a steal, and a block. He was great defensively, as well, and handled Louisville's big men as well as most could have expected him to. He pretty much kept the crowd and the Pete electric through three quarters of the game by himself. He's been playing better and better as the season has progressed, and at this point he's definitely earned more minutes than he's been averaging. I would not be upset if he started, honestly.
Unfortunately, Louisville had their own Ryan Luther tonight. David Levitch was pretty huge for Louisville in the second half. He finished with 8 points overall, and 2 three pointers. He didn't score a ton of points but the points he did score seemed to take the wind out of Pitt's sails. He really helped run their offense through his passing and cutting, especially to close the 1st half. Rick Pitino said he gave them "an incredible lift".
Michael Young and Jamel Artis. I don't know quite what to say about them at this point. I still think they are indeed Pitt's best players, but their negative plays are starting to cancel out their positives at this point. Those two alone had 8 of Pitt's 15 turnovers, and they've had similar stats like that through the last couple of games. Mike Young shows flashes of being simply a superb big man, and there's other times you are simply left frustrated. There was a fast break that Robinson handed the ball off to Young and he went for a dunk and drew the foul. Not a bad play right? Except Luther (or someone else) was right under the basket wide open. Thankfully, Young did make that extra pass to Luther for a lay up that worked well. Like I said, he shows flashes. As for Artis, he did finish with 13 points and 9 rebounds which on the surface is indeed a good game. However, he shot 3-13 from the field and 2-7 from 3 along with 5 turnovers. Woof. That's really inefficient basketball, and it's hurting Pitt. To make it worse, both Artis and Young have just downright terrible defense to go along with bad body language any time they fail to score. I'm not looking to trash these guys. I'm simply frustrated because their ceilings are both SO high, but they're holding themselves back with their mistakes.
James Robinson had another pretty solid game for Pitt. He made a couple bad plays down the stretch, but any time he scores 12 without shooting a huge amount is a good night for him in my mind. I think he's rebounded well after a bad stretch before the Wake Forrest game. Hopefully his elevated play continues. Sheldon Jeter was limited because of some pretty ticky tack fouls called on him early (honestly, the officiating of the entire game sucked terribly for both teams). Chris Jones had an ok game but was aggressive as we've been used to.
Overall, I did not think Pitt would win this game going into it ( I thought it'd be a blowout actually), but the team is definitely playing better than they had been. Louisville didn't play their normal full court pressure style which may have been a factor, but it was encouraging to see a tie game against the #11 team in the country with 3 minutes left. Louisville was certainly not playing badly. It was a fun and entertaining game to watch up until Pitt let it slip away.
As for the NCAA Tournament, Pitt is still in the hunt for a spot. I think the "definitely in" number is 3 more wins in the last 3 games of the season and the ACC tournament. The "you're gonna be sweating" number is 2 wins without a Duke win. I think that's pretty much where we're at. If Pitt can finally knock off a team like Duke on Sunday, it would do a world of good.