Pitt and Louisville met at the KFC Yum! Center in Kentucky on Wednesday night for an ACC tilt. The Panthers came into the matchup as 12.5-point underdogs, and for a 5-8 team stepping into the ring with a traditional power with a 9-4 record, the spread was not entirely unreasonable. However, with the return of Ithiel Horton from suspension, Pitt at least had some semblance of hope for a positive result. But hope doesn’t pay the bills, and Pitt fell to Louisville 75-72 for its third ACC loss.
The game’s first two points came courtesy of the ACC officiating crew, after it issued offsetting technical fouls to John Hugley and Malik Williams. Pitt head coach Jeff Capel was then assessed a technical foul after arguing the call, leading to two missed free throws by Noah Locke. That was followed by a questionable call by the officials that came after Locke’s shots. At that point, another technical foul was called on the Pitt bench, which appeared inactive at the time. That led to two more free throws and a 2-0 lead for Louisville.
Pitt would take some time to bounce back from its inauspicious start, and five minutes into the game, the Panthers would trail 10-5 while riding a three-minute scoring drought. By the midway point of the first half, the scoring drought had come to an end, but Pitt still trailed 16-10. It was only in the final 10 minutes of the half that the Panthers began to show signs of life, as they pulled within two points of the Cardinals on an Ithiel Horton jumper that made it 16-14. That would be Horton’s first made shot of the night, and he would become a force that kept Pitt alive early in the game.
Around the 5:00 mark, Horton would knock down his second shot, a three-pointer, and it would be more impactful than the first. The triple tied the game at 21-21 and saw the Panthers pull even with the Cardinals for the first time since the opening tipoff. Louisville would prove unwilling to go down without a fight, though, and the Cardinals would pull ahead once more, thanks in large part to the efforts of Noah Locke and Malik Williams. As a result, they would hold a 35-32 lead at the halftime break. However, it was Horton who led all scorers, with 13 points after an impressive first-half showing in his return.
With a three-point deficit to overcome, Pitt would continue to fight in the early goings of the second half. After John Hugley opened the scoring with a jumper, Jamarius Burton gave Pitt a 37-35 lead by converting on a layup through contact and knocking down the subsequent foul shot. That would be the Panthers’ first lead of the night, and it would prove hard to hold onto, as the Cardinals would not let up. Less than a minute later, Matt Cross would regain the lead for Louisville by knocking down a long-range shot to make it 38-37. But 52 seconds later, the Panthers would be on top again, thanks to a Jamarius Burton three and a Femi Odukale layup, which gave the visitors a tenuous 42-38 advantage.
Halfway through the second half, Pitt would be up 54-51, with a Mouhamadou Gueye three providing the Panthers with their advantage. Three minutes later, an El Ellis three would give the Cardinals a 58-57 lead, and he would prove to be a problem for the Panthers down the stretch. Ellis would hit two more go-ahead shots over the next four minutes, ultimately setting Pitt up with a deficit it would be unable to surmount. The final score would be 75-72, with the Cardinals in front of the Panthers.
Despite a strong first half, Ithiel Horton would fail to sink a single bucket in the second half, finishing with 13 points. Jamarius Burton would finish as Pitt’s top scorer, as he had 21 points in the matchup. And John Hugley also acquitted himself well, contributing 11 points and seven rebounds on Wednesday night.
With the loss, the Panthers fell to 5-9 on the season and 0-3 in the ACC. Meanwhile, Louisville notched its 10th win of the season, improving to 10-4 overall and 4-0 in conference competition. Pitt will look to get back on track on Saturday afternoon, when the team heads back to Pittsburgh to take on Boston College.