Luke Harangody had 32 points and 17 rebounds and Notre Dame shot 54 percent, the best any team has shot against Louisville this season, as the Fighting Irish won 90-57 to end a seven-game losing streak.
"I think to say we needed that would be the understatement of the year," Irish coach Mike Brey said.
Pitino said he was concerned about how Notre Dame would come out because the Irish were so desperate.
"I thought we were going into a hornets' nest. I didn't think we were going into an earthquake," he said.
The 33-point victory is the largest ever for Notre Dame (13-10, 4-7 Big East) against a league opponent. It was the second loss in three games for the Cardinals (18-5, 9-2).
Pitino credited the Irish for their play but was clearly upset with his team. Asked if he would skip having the team watch the tape because the game was so lopsided, Pitino said he would make them watch.
"Because they humiliated themselves they're going to watch it again," he said.
Pitino said his team, especially his upperclassmen, hasn't been listening and hasn't been practicing with a purpose, saying the Cardinals are lucky to be 9-2 in the league.
Brey said the Irish finally looked like the team he had seen earlier this season when the Irish were ranked as high as No. 7.
"This group really knows how to play on the offensive end," he said. "I thought tonight we were really focused on it. You're hoping that can kick start you a little bit. But it was nice to see our offensive rhythm because that's how we play and how we need to play against teams in this league."
It was the highest ranked opponent Notre Dame has beaten since a 99-85 win over No. 4 Alabama on Dec. 7, 2006.
The Irish dived for loose balls, outhustled the Cardinals, outrebounded them 48-28 and their offense ran smoothly throughout the game.
"Our energy was good and we were together, we were trusting each other out there," said Kyle McAlarney, who finished with 21 points.
Harangody, whose five points against UCLA on Saturday were the fewest he's scored since he was a freshman two years ago, was 14-of-21 from the field.
"It took a good week of practice and Coach getting into us and making us realize what our identity is. It showed in the first five minutes of the game who we are," Harangody said.
Terrence Williams, Louisville's leading scorer at 13 points a game, struggled for a second straight game with a bruised right wrist. After scoring three points against St. John's, he didn't make his first shot from the field until there was 13:23 left in the game and the Cardinals were down by 20. He finished with five points.
Williams wouldn't talk to the media after the game.
Louisville guard Jerry Smith said the Irish simply dominated.
"They wanted it more and they were hungry," he said. "They wanted a win and they got it."
"Hopefully it's a confidence builder for us," Brey said. "There's still a lot of basketball to play."