Fast start key for Pitt as No. 11 Louisville visits

NCAA Men's Basketball
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Check out the warmups on Tuesday night when the Pittsburgh Panthers host the 11th-ranked Louisville Cardinals.

Pitt (11-5, 2-3 ACC) lost 66-58 at Miami on Sunday night, and at least two Panthers say they sensed complacency even before the game started.

“We had no energy,” said center Terrell Brown, who scored 10 points against Miami. “We were complacent. There was no talking. We have to be ready in warmups. I saw it in warmups. I tried to talk to people. But it’s something players have to take into account on their own.”

Indeed, the Panthers fell behind 16-0 in the first six minutes and were outscored 15-4 to start the second half, also in six minutes.

“We dug a hole so deep, we couldn’t climb out,” Pitt coach Jeff Capel said. “We had to expend more energy because it was such a deep climb, and we didn’t do what was required to win. We didn’t move the ball. We weren’t connected.”

Pitt will have to do better to upset the Cardinals (13-3, 4-1), who have won two in a row after losing back-to-back games to ranked teams Kentucky and Florida State.

The Cardinals routed Pitt 64-46 on Dec. 6, but that was in Louisville. This game will be at Pittsburgh, and the Cardinals are just 3-2 away from home this season.

Cardinals coach Chris Mack was pleased with how his players competed in that first Pitt game.

“For us to get the ball reversed, set the screens we wanted and get layups, that’s just back-breaking (to Pitt’s defense),” Mack said. “We ran the clock on offense and got great looks. Defensively, we didn’t allow second shots.”

Louisville outrebounded Pitt 33-29, although the Panthers did grab nine caroms on the offensive glass. The Cardinals never trailed and held Pitt to 37.7 percent shooting, including 3 of 12 on 3-pointers.

Louisville’s Jordan Nwora led all scorers with 19 points, and that’s no surprise. He’s an All-American candidate — a mature 6-foot-7, 225-pound junior forward who leads the Cardinals with 20.8 points per game.

After Nwora, the Cardinals have a bunch of role players — none averaging more than 11 points. Senior center Steven Enoch is averaging 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds. Ryan McMahon, a senior guard, is averaging 9.2 points and shooting 44.0 percent from 3-point range.

Louisville is hoping its defense travels. The Cardinals are allowing opponents to hit just 36.7 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from beyond the arc.

Pitt’s leading scorer is sophomore shooting guard Trey McGowens (13.2 points per game). However, he shot just 2 of 9 and had four points in the game last month against Louisville.

Xavier Johnson, another sophomore guard for Pitt, scored 15 points against Louisville, and he leads the Panthers with 4.9 assists per game. He is coming off a four-point effort against Miami, tying a season-low, as he shot 1 of 5 from the field.

Freshman wing Justin Champagnie averages 11.4 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds for Pitt.

–Field Level Media

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