PITTSBURGH (AP) - Louisville spent eight long days recovering from a miserable home loss to Duke, giving Rick Pitino plenty of time to tinker and his players plenty of time to regroup.
Whatever tweaks the Hall of Fame coach made worked. Hitting shot after shot certainly helped. Terry Rozier scored 26 points and the 10th-ranked Cardinals pulled away from Pittsburgh 80-68 on Sunday.
Montrezl Harrell added 18 points and seven rebounds as the Cardinals (16-3, 4-2 ACC) bounced back from a loss to Duke by torching the Panthers. Louisville shot a season-high 65 percent (30 of 46) from the floor, the best ever against the Panthers in Jamie Dixon’s 12 years on the job.
“We usually win with defense and tonight we won with offense,” Pitino said. “Our offense was special and great shooting percentages are the result of great passing and we did a terrific job passing against a good defensive team.”
A historically good defensive team at least. Not so much this year’s version. The Panthers (13-7, 3-4) have struggled getting stops against quality opponents and could do little as Rozier, Harrell and Jones - who put up 17 points and nine assists in 35 minutes - had their way.
Harrell had averaged just 9.0 points in his last four games - six below his season average - but responded with a handful of dunks while sticking closer to the basket.
“In the beginning (of conference play) he was trying to be Kevin Durant instead of Montrezl Harrell,” Pitino said. “Tonight, he did a little bit of everything.”
The Cardinals needed it after Pitt trimmed a 12-point halftime deficit to 40-35 early in the second half. Harrell ended the drought with a dunk and Jones popped a 3-pointer. Chinanu Onuaku made a layup while getting fouled. The 6-foot-10 sophomore pounded his chest before knocking down the free throw. Rozier later added a traditional three-point play of his own to make it 57-41.
“We just went back to moving the ball,” Harrell said. “They came out (in the second half) and went on their little run. We just had to get back to playing defense.”
Jamel Artis led the Panthers (13-7, 3-4) with 18 points and eight rebounds but Pitt struggled to keep the Cardinals in check. The Panthers led over the final 34 minutes. Pitt drew within 66-58 on a Jamel Artis jumper with 4:05 remaining. The Panthers forced a Louisville turnover but Cameron Wright’s 3-pointer from the corner hit nothing and Pitt would get no closer.
“We got a couple of stops and capitalized but when they made their run back we really didn’t respond as well as we should have,” Pitt guard James Robinson said. “I think that impacted the game.”
The two teams, who developed a brief but physically heated rivalry during their stay in the Big East, played a slightly more genteel version befitting their new conference home.
The bruising, push-and-shove that highlighted previous incarnation was replaced by something a little more uptempo. It helped that Rozier couldn’t miss. The sophomore had 18 points in the first half alone, including a flurry of shots early that allowed the Cardinals to get into a rhythm.
“He saw open spots and he attacked it,” Harrell said of Rozier. “That’s the player he is. They gave him open driving lanes and he made them pay for it.”
Louisville: Harrell’s layup midway through the first half gave him 1,000 career points. The junior is the 66th player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. … The Cardinals are now 4-1 at the Petersen Events Center, the most victories by an opponent at an arena where Pitt has won 90 percent of its games since opening more than a decade ago.
Pitt: The Panthers fell to 13-3 at the Pete against top-10 teams and just 5-20 in their last 25 games against ranked opponents overall. … Pitt outrebounded the Cardinals 34-28, their first loss when outrebounding a conference opponent. … Robinson had 16 points and six assists while Michael Young added 14 points and nine boards. … The Panthers have lost consecutive games for the first time this season but Dixon said he’s not concerned. “We kept playing hard, even when the shots weren’t falling,” he said. “The attitude is good. They’re not happy about losing. We’ve got to learn how to beat good teams.”
Louisville: plays at Boston College on Wednesday.
Pitt: travels to Virginia Tech on Tuesday.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.