LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Russ Smith scored 18 points, Kyle Kuric added 17 and No. 17 Louisville held on to beat Pittsburgh 57-54 on Sunday.
Kuric overcame an 0-for-11 performance in Thursday's loss to Cincinnati by hitting his first shot and making a key 3-pointer late. Kuric's bucket as the shot clock expired gave Louisville (22-7, 10-6 Big East) a 53-48 lead with 3:25 left.
Pittsburgh (15-14, 4-12) cut the lead to one and had three chances to tie or take the lead in the final minute, but Tray Woodall missed a jumper and senior Ashton Gibbs' shot from just inside halfcourt as time expired missed off the back iron.
J.J. Moore scored 16 points and Dante Taylor added 11 for the Panthers.
Leading 53-52, Louisville freshman Chane Behanan had two chances to ice the game. The 60 percent free-throw shooter missed the first in a one-and-one situation, but Woodall missed a jumper and Behanan was fouled with 13 seconds left.
After he hit both, Woodall drove to the hoop, scoring with 5.2 seconds to play. The Panthers fouled Peyton Siva just over a second later and Siva made both to finish with 11 points.
On the final play, Moore found Gibbs, who dribbled just past the halfcourt line and got a good look that would've tied the game, but hit off the back iron to end it.
Smith took over midway through the second half with the Cardinals trailing 38-35. Smith scored nine straight points for Louisville, capping his spurt with a 3-pointer that made it 44-40 with 9:22 left.
On the next possession, Louisville center Gorgui Dieng blocked a shot and then tipped an inbounds pass to Siva that started a break that Kuric finished with a reverse layup. Pittsburgh's bench was called for a technical foul and Kuric hit the second of two free throws to make it 47-40 with 8:31 left.
Pittsburgh had one more rally and Moore's basket cut it to 50-48, but Taylor missed the front end of a one-and-one with a chance to tie, and Kuric hit a straightaway 3-pointer from 22 feet with the shot clock at 1 to put the Cardinals up 53-48 with 3:25 to go.
Woodall added hit a fadeaway shot over Kuric and Lamar Patterson found Taylor for a dunk with 28 seconds to go that made it 53-52 to set up the final sequence.
The Panthers have been hampered by injuries all season and Woodall (flu, groin), Nasir Robinson (left knee) and Gibbs (left ankle) missed parts of practice this week as the team has slumped following high preseason expectations.
There were brief glimpses of what Pittsburgh could've been, including a six-point spurt to start the second half that gave the Panthers a 30-25 lead, but Louisville answered when Siva hit a tough layup, made the first of two free throws and found Kuric for a 3-pointer to give Louisville a 31-30 lead.
The matchup had the feel of a Sunday pickup game with both sides trying to dribble through the other team's zone looks.
On one possession, Smith nearly lost the ball out of bounds on a pass as coach Rick Pitino slapped his hands in his knees in disbelief. Passing proved to be a problem for Pittsburgh, too, when the ball from Woodall went right through Gibbs' hands without any pressure at midcourt.
In another sequence, Cameron Wright fell down while backpedaling after missing a jump shot, while Moore grabbed the offensive rebound and scored on a short jumper that gave Pittsburgh a 36-35 lead with just under 13 minutes to play.
Louisville has won eight of its last 10 following a 2-4 start to conference play. The Cardinals fell at Cincinnati on Thursday night after Kuric missed all 11 of his shots and while they got off to a slow start with three turnovers, Kuric hit his first attempt — a 3-pointer — and the senior was well on his way to shaking his worst performance in 106 games.