Louisville faces “must-win” tonight against Pittsburgh

Update: Wayne Blackshear and Kevin Ware will miss tonight’s game.

It might be over-stating the matter slightly to say that Louisville basketball is in crisis mode. Then again, given the results of the past week, maybe not.

After all, none other than Rick Pitino stated over the weekend that tonight’s game against Pittsburgh is a “must-win” for his Cardinals, who have surprisingly dropped three straight games after ascending to the top of the AP college basketball rankings two weeks ago.

After a tough 70-68 loss to visiting Syracuse and an unexpected 73-64 thumping at Villanova, the offensively-challenged Cards dropped a 53-51 decision at Georgetown on Saturday. U of L led 33-29 at the half but managed to score just 20 second-half points. The Cards were tied with the Hoyas 48-48 with 5:41 left and 50-50 at the 4:11 mark, then produced all of one point the rest of the way. Louisville scored two field goals in the final 6:28.

Louisville hasn’t lost four games in a row since 2003-04. But this Cardinal edition has shot the ball poorly, just 34.8 percent in the Saturday loss. Wayne Blackshear was one-of-nine from the floor. Battling foul trouble, Peyton Siva took just two shots, missing both, including a jumper inside the final two seconds that would have given Louisville the lead.

Pitino was more upset with Siva’s decision-making on defense.

“Peyton, for one of the smartest kids I’ve ever coached, he just does the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in my life, and that’s why I don’t gamble with him,” Pitino told the Courier-Journal. “I would love to play him, but — just like that play … he knew he was in foul trouble, he couldn’t get the steal — he’s just so aggressive that he does that.”

Pitino did say he will keep Luke Hancock in the starting lineup. The coach brought Russ Smith off the bench, choosing to go with Hancock, who ended up scoring 12 points. Hancock made Louisville’s only three-pointers (three) in the game.

Pittsburgh has won four straight and brings a 17-4 record and 5-3 Big East mark into the Yum Center. The Panthers lost 70-61 to Cincinnati, 67-62 at Rutgers and 74-67 in overtime to Marquette. Jamie Dixon’s club did win 58-43 at Villanova, which beat U of L in Philadelphia last week. Villanova then knocked off Syracuse in overtime on Saturday.

Tonight’s U of L-Pitt game is at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

Big East standings

  • Syracuse 6-1 18-2
  • Marquette 5-1 14-4
  • Pittsburgh 5-3 17-4
  • St. John’s 5-3 13-7
  • Notre Dame 4-3 16-4
  • Cincinnati 4-3 16-4
  • Louisville 4-3 16-4
  • Georgetown 4-3 14-4
  • Villanova 4-3 13-7
  • Connecticut 3-3 13-5
  • Rutgers 3-5 12-7
  • Seton Hall 2-5 13-7
  • Providence 2-6 10-10
  • DePaul 1-5 10-9
  • South Florida 1-6 10-9

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