LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Carelessness cost Pittsburgh a chance at a Big East road win against No. 12 Louisville.
Missed free throws, turnovers and surrendering easy layups on defense were the culprit in the 64-61 loss on Monday night.
The Panthers (17-5, 5-4 Big East) hit just three of 12 free throws in ending a four-game winning streak. Louisville (17-4, 5-3) hit 10 of its 11 free throws in the second half, including all six in the final 24 seconds to seal the win.
"There's definitely no explanation," junior forward Lamar Patterson said of Pitt's woes from the line. "We've been practicing; we've been running for missing. I felt like our focus wasn't really there at the free throw line."
The Panthers entered Monday shooting 67 percent on free throws after hitting 75 percent (18 of 24) in Saturday's 93-55 win against DePaul. But Monday's showing wasn't their first struggle of late.
The Panthers hit just 13 of 26 in their last loss — a Jan. 12 overtime defeat against Marquette — and survived a 12-of-21 free throw shooting performance in a 68-64 win at Providence on Jan. 22.
Turnovers, especially early, put Pitt in a hole against the Cardinals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. The Panthers entered the game committing the second-fewest turnovers per game (10.4) in the Big East but committed 11 first-half errors, many unforced.
Pitt finished with 15 turnovers after committing 18 against DePaul and 14 at Providence.
"We've been turning the ball over a lot lately and that's not Pitt basketball," Patterson said. "We've just got to get strong with the ball, make smart passes and not play careless."
The sloppiness carried over to defense when Pitt shifted to a zone. Coach Jamie Dixon said a lack of ball pressure on Louisville point guard Peyton Siva allowed an easy entry pass to center Gorgui Dieng at the high post, who then found open teammates for baskets.
"They were getting the ball to the high post and we were letting the big guy drop off passes for layups, easy layups," senior guard Tray Woodall said. "We were indecisive of who was supposed to guard the big guy, so we winded up having a guard and the big guy guarding him. . We had nobody guarding the backside."
Seven 3-pointers over the final 13:18 and a 25-10 advantage in second-chance points gave Pitt a chance to steal the victory. Another chance awaits the Panthers on Saturday against No. 6 Syracuse.
"I think we're better team than what we played tonight. We've been playing better basketball than this," Dixon said.
Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng combined for 34 points and sealed the game with four free throws in the final 12 seconds for Louisville.
Louisville, which has slumped since being No. 1 two weeks ago, saw an 11-point second-half lead cut to 60-58 on Woodall's 3-pointer with 13.3 seconds remaining.
Dieng made two free throws with 12.7 seconds left for a four-point lead, and after Patterson shot an air ball from 3-point range with 6 seconds left, Smith followed with two more free throws for a 64-58 lead with 4.2 seconds left.
Woodall, who had 14 points, drained a long 3-pointer in the final second.
Smith finished with 20 points while Dieng had 14 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks.
Louisville shot 45 percent (23 of 51) but didn't make a basket in the final 4:34. Pittsburgh shot 44 percent (25 of 57) and outrebounded the Cardinals 35-33 but couldn't complete the comeback as Woodall missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 43 seconds left, leading to two free throws by Chane Behanan that put Louisville up 60-55.