LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — No. 20 Pittsburgh caught Louisville at the wrong time as the 21st-ranked Cardinals rebounded from a bad outing. Now, the Panthers are hoping they have a similar response after losing 59-41 Thursday night.
"They came out aggressive, physical," said forward Michael Young, who led the Panthers with 18 points and eight rebounds. "They really got after us coming off a loss. You would expect them to play like that. They disrupted us a little offensively."
"A little" is an understatement.
Pitt saw its 10-game winning streak snapped in by far its worst outing of the season. The Panthers came into the game averaging more than 85 points a game but were held to a season-low and the program's lowest total since a 62-39 loss to Rutgers on Jan. 11, 2012. It was the Panthers' fifth-fewest points since 1954-55.
To illustrate just how gnarly it was for the Panthers: the football team scored 42 points in the first half of its 45-34 win over Louisville in November, one more than the basketball team could manage all game Thursday.
"I can't think of anything we did well, so we are disappointed by our performance," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "Obviously the numbers don't add up for us."
Chinanu Onuaku had 18 points and 10 rebounds, the fourth consecutive double-double for Louisville's sophomore center.
Damion Lee scored 18 points for the Cardinals (14-3, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
"If Nanu wants to, he could be the most dominant player in the ACC," Lewis said. "And he wants to. I'm starting to see that more and more. He demands the ball. He wants the ball inside and he makes great decisions with the ball. I don't think anybody can handle him one-on-one."
Onuaku has struggled with foul trouble at times this season. He was limited to just 20 minutes in Louisville's 66-62 loss at Clemson on Sunday but had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
"Right now, if he plays 33 minutes we're going to be tough to beat," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
The game resembled a Big East brawl of a bygone era.
Louisville led 20-17 at halftime, the lowest halftime total for both teams this season. Both teams were 1-of-11 (9 percent) from 3-point range. Louisville had a 34-20 advantage on points in the paint.
Pitt entered the game leading the nation in free throw percentage but shot just 12 of 20 (60 percent) from the line.
Onuaku carried the Cardinals in a myriad of ways — hitting jumpers from the baseline and top of the key to go with dunks off drop-steps, all while directing the defense.
Louisville used a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to double digits with 16:07 left, capped by Ray Spalding's reverse layup. The Cardinals led 33-23 when Pitt's Sheldon Jeter, a 93 percent free throw shooter, missed three straight from the line. That helped Louisville to stretch its lead to 40-25 with 9:33 remaining before Pitt began clawing back. Ryan Luther's steal and dunk with 4:54 remaining cut the lead to nine before Louisville went on an 11-0 run.
Both teams scored just 11 points in the first 10 minutes. The Cardinals clicked off a 9-0 run, with Onuaku scoring the first seven points, to take a 20-14 lead with 4:56 left in the half. The Cardinals held Pitt without a point for nearly 7 minutes before Damon Wilson's 3 with 2:19 left proved the final score before halftime.
Pitt: The Panthers had 11 first-half turnovers, more than their season average for a game, and finished with a season-high 19. ... The Panthers shot 29 percent. Their previous scoring low was 59 in a loss to Purdue.
Louisville: Louisville shot 41 percent. ... Onuaku, who shoots free throws underhanded, matched his career high with four makes from the line. ... This is the fifth time this season the Cardinals have limited an opponent to less than 30 percent shooting.
The Panthers had 11 first-half turnovers, more than their season average for a game, and finished with a season-high 19.
"They switched up defenses," guard James Robinson said. "We expected that. We just didn't have the ball flowing like we normally do."
Robinson entered the game leading the ACC with a 6.75:1 assist-to-turnover ratio this season. He finished with two assists and three turnovers.
Pitt hosts Boston College on Saturday.
Louisville hosts Florida State on Wednesday.