LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Russ Smith and Gorgui Dieng combined for 34 points and sealed the game with four free throws in the final 12 seconds as No. 12 Louisville ended a three-game losing streak with a 64-61 victory over Pittsburgh on Monday night.
Louisville, which has slumped since being No. 1 two weeks ago, saw an 11-point second-half lead cut to 60-58 on Tray Woodall’s 3-pointer with 13.3 seconds remaining. That was one of seven 3s by Pitt over the final 13:18.
Dieng made two free throws with 12.7 seconds left for a four-point lead, and after the Panthers’ Lamar Patterson shot an air ball 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 for the Cardinals (17-4, 5-3 Big East).
Pittsburgh (17-5, 5-4) had its four-game winning streak stopped.
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.
Behanan finished with 12 points.
Louisville won without starting forward Wayne Blackshear and guard Kevin Ware. Blackshear is out for a “short period” after spraining his shoulder in practice on Sunday, while Ware was suspended indefinitely for an unspecified reason.
The absence of Blackshear and Ware created another lineup shuffle for Louisville, which started forward Luke Hancock ahead of leading-scorer Smith in Saturday’s 53-51 loss at Georgetown. Smith returned to the starting lineup on Monday night with Peyton Siva, Hancock, Dieng and Behanan.
Their mission was slowing an athletic Panthers squad coming in on a roll, having won five of their past six. Pitt went from a 1-3 start in Big East play to third place behind Syracuse and Marquette and in the process matched or surpassed last year’s win totals.
Being back in familiar surroundings appeared to help the Cardinals regain their flow, at least in the first half. Trailing 9-6, Smith’s first 3-pointer sparked Louisville’s 12-0 run for an 18-9 lead and set the tone for an active first half.
The Cardinals scored in the halfcourt offense as well as transition and even got a 3-pointer from Tim Henderson, playing more minutes out of necessity, as they built a 32-20 lead with 4:49 remaining in the half behind Smith’s 13 points.
But Louisville went cold after that and settled for a 32-26 halftime lead preserved by its defense, which limited Pitt’s scoring chances and forced the Panthers into shot clock and 3-second violations down the stretch. Pitt committed 11 turnovers but stayed close with 12 of 26 shooting (46 percent) and a 19-17 rebounding edge.
Louisville opened the second half with a 7-2 run for an 11-point lead that helped the Cardinals withstand several Pitt runs. After eschewing perimeter shots for much of the game, the Panthers hit four 3-pointers over a 9-minute stretch to get within 53-50 with 4:53 remaining.