It wasn't so much the fact that Pitt led 48-40 with a little over eight minutes left in the team's disappointing 67-60 loss to No. 11 Louisville on Wednesday night. The Panthers really looked like the better team all night long. Pitt got off to a 9-2 start early and while they trailed at halftime after a terrible end to the first half, few would argue that the Panthers mostly looked pretty good.
Unfortunately this went from a game the team wasn't expected to win to one that looked like they should win to a loss. Despite the fact that Pitt played well, this is a very difficult loss to stomach simply because they looked in control.
After that eight-point lead in the second half, though, things changed for the worst.
The Panthers traded blows with Louisville after things were tied up at 48-48. Many people will complain that Pitt simply folded but that isn't entirely true. Both teams made shot after shot after that - 11 in a row, to be exact, as Louisville took a 61-58 lead with about two minutes left. And that's when the Panthers couldn't keep up. Pitt made only one of their final six shots to close out the game and that wrapped things up.
I don't fault Jamie Dixon and company for missing those late shots. In reality, Louisville just got extremely hot. How hot? The Cardinals made nine consecutive shots to end the game. They just played extremely well and have to be commended for overcoming a somewhat sluggish performance.
The Panthers' bigger problem was the stretch once they took that 48-40 lead. Pitt attempted only two shots over the next 2:56 (missing both), turned the ball over twice, and committed three fouls - all while not playing much defense and allowing Louisville to tie it up. Had the Panthers played a little more competently there, they may not have been forced to keep up with the Cardinals at the end.
Pitt's NCAA Tournament hopes will live to fight another day and there's no question that they gave a strong effort tonight. But given how they looked for most of the game, this is one of those losses that feels terrible.