No. 11 Louisville pulls away from Pittsburgh 67-60
PITTSBURGH (AP) When Louisville coach Rick Pitino awarded walk-on guard David Levitch a scholarship in the fall, Pitino stressed the slight, mop-topped kid from the Louisville suburbs had earned it.
Playing major minutes on the road with the pursuit of a regular season ACC title in the balance, Levitch looked right at home. The junior scored eight points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:34 remaining as the 11th-ranked Cardinals pulled away from Pittsburgh 67-60 on Wednesday night.
The game was tied at 58 when Levitch - who'd scored all of eight points combined since Dec. 23 - took a pass from Chinanu Onuaku and calmly sank a jumper from the wing that kept Louisville's chase of a conference championship very much alive.
''He's got the biggest (guts) of all time,'' Pitino said of Levitch. ''It doesn't even phase him that this was a big game. He does this every time I put him in.''
Quentin Snider led Louisville (22-6, 11-4 ACC) with 14 points, Damion Lee added 13 and Deng Adel has 12 points and seven rebounds as the Cardinals finished with a 27-12 surge in which they made all nine of their field goal attempts.
''We just had to combat their run with a run of our own and make sure we get some stops,'' Lee said.
Louisville's season will end no matter what on March 5 at Virginia after the school banned itself from NCAA Tournament consideration as part of the fallout into an investigation into recruiting violations. That leaves only the ACC regular season title to play for. It's hardly ideal, but it has galvanized the Cardinals, who are a game behind first-place North Carolina with three to go.
''Pittsburgh has a lot to look forward too ... we don't have a lot,'' Pitino said. ''These games, this is our tournament.''
Ryan Luther finished with a career-high 17 points for Pitt (19-8, 8-7). Jamel Artis had 13 points and nine rebounds for the Panthers, but Pitt fell to 0-6 against ranked teams this season after letting a chance to bolster its NCAA resume disappear.
A layup by Michael Young tied the game at 58 with 3:10 to play, but the Cardinals scored the next eight points and Louisville's smothering defense did the rest.
''Close isn't good enough,'' Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. ''There's no consolation in that. You need to win a big one at home.''
The Cardinals won the first matchup in Louisville last month, a brutal 59-41 victory that looked more like an MMA brawl. The loss seemed to take some of the air out of the Panthers, who entered ranked in the Top 25 and left with its confidence shaken. Pitt is now 4-7 over its last 11 and in need of a quality performance on Sunday against No. 15 Duke to give its flagging NCAA chances a boost.
''Getting over this (loss) won't be easy, but we can't dwell on it too long,'' Luther said. ''It's not going to get easier against Duke.''
Louisville freshman forward Ray Spalding participated in the morning walkthrough but ended up not playing after injuring his groin while ''horsing around'' with Lee. Spalding's absence forced Pitino to get creative with his lineup, particularly at the end of the first half when he threw out a group that included freshman guard Jay Henderson, who has played 20 minutes all season.
Spalding's injury allowed Pitino to give Adel more playing time and the freshman from Australia responded with 29 energetic minutes. His output included a dunk during Louisville's game-ending run that quieted Pitt's raucous student section.
''His coonfidence is high,'' Lee said of Adel. ''It doesn't matter what position he's playing out there. There were times he was playing (small forward), playing (power forward), even playing (center) toward the end of the game when we had our small lineup in. But that kid, that kid's confident. I'm really excited for what his future is here.''
Louisville: The Cardinals made 7 of 16 3-pointers, including 6 of 8 in the second half. .... The Cardinals forced 15 turnovers. ... Louisville had planned to fly back to campus immediately after the game but was forced to wait after the pilots for their charter were delayed.
Pitt: The Panthers won the rebounding battle 34-28, but were outscored in the paint 30-26. ... Pitt shot just 42 percent (21 of 50) from the floor. ... Luther's previous career high was 15 against Detroit on Nov. 20.
Louisville: at No. 12 Miami on Saturday
Pitt: hosts No. 15 Duke on Sunday.
AP College Basketball website: www.collegebasketball.ap.org