The Louisville Cardinals (18-8, 8-5) moved closer to their goal of post season play with a win over the Pittsburgh Panthers (8-18, 0-13) on Sunday afternoon. Pitt forced an early timeout by the opposition less than five minutes into the game. Two triples by freshman guard Parker Stewart sandwiched a long distance connection by freshman point guard Marcus Carr, which helped power an early 11-7 lead. But like so many teams before them this season, Louisville weathered the early storm and quickly took control of the game.
The early three-pointers ended up being the only triples they made before halftime (3-16). In fact, they didn’t convert another field goal in the half after freshman guard/forward Shamiel Stevenson scored at the 8:53 mark. The Cardinals on the other hand forced their way back into the game by dominating the paint. Between getting out in transaction after every missed basket and attacking rotating defenders, Louisville scored 22 points in the paint in the first half, two more than the Panthers halftime total (46-20).
The second half was more of the same. The only difference was the teams shot at the other basket. Although, that did give me front row seats to some really good transition dunks courtesy of sophomore forward V.J. King and freshman guard Darius Perry. A three-pointer by senior point guard Quentin Snider at the 18:38 mark saw him score as many points, 11, as the entire starting lineup for Pitt.
That basically sums up the rest of the game, as the Panthers never made a game of it. On the bright side, they did find a lot of success attacking the basket late in the game, but that was against the Cardinals reserves. Ultimately, they fell 94-60. Head coach Kevin Stallings summed it up pretty well:
“We’re just not as good as the team we played.”
Pitt was led by the 15 points of Stevenson on 5-7 from the floor. Despite that 66% of his point production came with just 12 minutes left in the game, he attacked the basket almost every time he touched the ball. Although, he only converted 4 of his 9 free throw attempts.
Who didn’t score for Louisville? Only freshman guards Jo Griffin and Jacob Redding failed to register a point for their team, and they played less than a minute of the game. Three starters reached double-figures for the Cardinals: senior center Anas Mahmoud (14), King (14), and Snider (11). The starting five all shot at least 50% from the floor. On how difficult a matchup Louisville was for the Panthers, Stallings said:
“We just couldn’t guard them. It wasn’t a lack of effort, they just were bigger, faster, better at every turn than we were.”
It’s not that Pitt didn’t play really hard, and they certainly didn’t give up. As always, they simply have zero margin for error. Collectively, they aren’t very athletic, they aren’t very big, they don’t possess more than one or two good shooters, they don’t possess more than one good perimeter defender. The list goes on and on. Perhaps if the game was only 10 minutes long, they’d have won a few ACC games. The problem is teams eventually settle in and reversion to the mean happens over the course of the game.
The Panthers will look to get their first conference win at home against Boston College (15-10, 5-7) on Tuesday. Despite a losing record in the ACC, Stallings understands there aren’t any easy games in this conference:
“Their guards are incredible. No, it’s not a break. It’s another good team in a terrific league.”