Louisville 75, Pitt 73

While one team is surging toward March Madness, the other is fading fast.

Louisville won its seventh straight and 13th in the past 15 games with a 75-73 victory against Pittsburgh Sunday at the Petersen Events Center.

The Big East-leading Cardinals improved to 22-6, 12-3 in Conference play, while Pitt (19-8, 7-7) has lost three straight and is 4-6 in its past 10 games.

"I'm not quite sure what has happened lately, but we've got to find a way down the stretch to get it done,'' junior forward Sam Young said. Young led Pitt with 20 points to go with seven rebounds and five assists, but in the final four minutes -- with the game on the line -- he didn't get a touch on offense.

"There weren't that many possessions,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "And Sam played a good game, maybe his best game here. He scored and rebounded and passed real well. He played a good game.''

Pitt never led in the second half, while Louisville held as much as an eight-point advantage. However, the Panthers got within two points, 70-68, on a 3-pointer by senior Ronald Ramon with 37 seconds remaining. And after a free throw by Louisville center David Padgett, Pitt freshman DeJuan Blair hit two from the line to get within one, 71-70, with 22 seconds left. But that was the Panthers' last basket until a Ramon trey with time running out to set the final score.

Down three, 73-70 with about 10 seconds left, junior point guard Levance Fields got the ball in deep to Blair for a two-pointer. Louisville defended against the long shot, and the Panthers went for the two instead. But Blair missed the lay-up and had to foul to get the ball back.

"That's the play for us, a pick and roll,'' Blair said. "The ball came to me inside, but I missed the shot. I don't know what happened there. I don't know what to say. It was a great pass by Levance, but I missed the shot. If I get it down low, I'm going to look to score, but I missed that shot.''

Blair didn't miss too often for Pitt. He tallied 20 points and 11 rebounds, was 4-for-5 from the line and added two steaks to his team-leading total. But his game is in the paint. When the Panthers moved outside, they continued to shoot poorly, except for Young (8-for-15 overall, 3-for-5 treys).

Ramon scored 11 points and added four assists, but he was just 3-for-6 from 3-point range and generally was off-target except for the buzzer-beater. Fields and senior Keith Benjamin combined to go 0-for-8 from long range. Fields started, played 37 minutes and tallied eight points with seven assists and no turnovers.

Those numbers would be solid under most circumstances, but his shooting was horrendous. Fields made just 4 of 13 shots and missed his only free throw. He took poor shots and was mostly effective driving to the basket or on the break. Redshirt freshman forward Gilbert Brown was even worse. He was 1-for-6 overall, including 0-for-2 from 3-point range, in 23 forgettable minutes.

"We've got to find a way to turn this around,'' Fields said. "We're right there. This is a resilient bunch. I think this is going to turn, and I think we deserve it. If we keep pushing, something good is going to happen. I'm sure of it.''

Padgett made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 32.1 seconds and led Louisville with 21 points, while reserve Edgar Sosa had 15 of his 18 points in the first half. The Cardinals became the first visiting team to win twice at the Petersen Events Center since it opened in 2002.

While Louisville is tied with Georgetown for the top spot in the Big East, Pitt has dropped into an eighth-place tie after losing three straight for just the second time in Dixon's five seasons. The other was to Villanova, West Virginia and Connecticut in February, 2005. The Cardinals appear to be positioned for a deep tournament run, while the Panthers are scrambling.

"I think we have depth and we execute well, and that's the key,'' Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "But this Pitt team is a good team, and I don't think you have to worry about getting into the tournament unless you drop into the 40s and 50s with your RPI. Now, if you don't win a couple games at the end here, I don't know. But I think they'll take into account the injuries and everything.''

Pitt has four regular-season games remaining with two at home, Cincinnati Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. and the finale against DePaul March 9 at noon, to go with trips to Syracuse (March 1) and West Virginia (March 3).

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