LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Pitt men's basketball team’s first game in eight days followed a familiar script for the Panthers – another close game, another heartbreaking loss. Jamarius Burton’s 3-point shot at the buzzer hit iron, bouncing off the back of the rim and Pitt fell to Louisville 75-72 at the KFC Yum! Center on Wednesday night.
Burton, who tested positive for COVID-19 during the Panthers’ break and wore a mask throughout the game after clearing protocols that allowed him to return, led all scorers with 21 points, including 15 in the second half.
The game got off to a wild start with four technical fouls called in the first 1:12 of play as Pitt’s John Hugley and Louisville’s Malik Williams – who each lead their respective teams in scoring – were each assessed a technical foul. Pitt coach Jeff Capel’s reaction earned him a technical foul as well, with another one being called on the Pitt bench.
“Another tough loss for us. A very weird game, just how it started, it’s really unlike any other game I’ve ever been a part of to start,” Capel said after the game.
The technical on Hugley was his second foul of the game and the sophomore forward went to the bench and stayed there for the final 19 minutes of the first half. Capel said he thought about putting Hugley back in the game before halftime but decided against it.
“I was tempted, but with how the game was being called, I didn’t want to do it,” Capel said. “We thought we were able to keep it in a distance that it didn’t get away from us. If it had started to get away from us maybe a little bit more, I would have done that.”
The Panthers were able to keep the game close with plenty of help from junior guard Ithiel Horton. Wednesday night’s game was the first of the season for Horton following his suspension due to legal troubles. The charges against Horton were dropped last week and he participated in just three practices before coming off the bench to score 13 points against the Cardinals, all of which came in the first half.
With 2:47 remaining before halftime, Pitt trailed 32-24 before Horton made two three-pointers in a 90-second span. The Panthers would go in the locker room at halftime trailing by just three with Louisville clinging to a 35-32 lead.
“I thought Ithiel was terrific in the first half,” Capel said. “I thought our guys played well to put ourselves in a position. We were down eight, he had a big three to kind of give us a little bit of life there, and we were able to get it to a three-point game at halftime.”
The Panthers took their first lead of the game three minutes into the second half on a Burton layup. The score then bounced back and forth between the two teams, with the lead changing 16 times throughout the game.
With Williams playing just 19 minutes before fouling out with two minutes to go in the contest, the Cardinals needed someone to step up and junior guard El Ellis did just in the second half. Ellis led Louisville with 18 points despite being held to just four in the first half. Ellis scored ten in the final seven minutes and his three-pointer with 6:53 remaining gave the Cardinals a 63-61 lead and they never trailed again.
While the Panthers had been able to keep it close for much of the game, they went cold at the worst time. In the final four and half minutes of the game, Pitt made just one of seven shots from the floor, a three-pointer from Burton with 7.6 seconds remaining to get the Panthers within a score.
Four Pitt players scored in double digits – in addition to Burton and Horton, Mouhamadou Gueye had 15 points while Hugley added 11. Hugley led the team with seven rebounds.
Louisville guard Noah Locke scored 13 while forwards Matt Cross and Samuell Williamson each added nine. Williams was held to just four points in 19 minutes.
Pitt will host Boston College on Saturday at 4 p.m. as the Panthers are still searching for their first ACC win since Jan. 6, 2021.