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Louisville’s win conceals more poor late-game execution

Jan 29, 2013, 10:09 AM EDT

Pittsburgh v Louisville Getty Images

Louisville was able to snap their three-game losing streak on Monday night, knocking off Pitt 64-61 in the Yum! Center to move to 5-3 in the Big East and stay two games behind Marquette and Syracuse atop the league standings.

There’s no question it was a big win for the Cardinals, because Pitt is a good basketball team. Whether it comes at home or on the road, beating the Panthers is always going to be a good win, especially when it snaps the first three-game losing skid that started when a team was ranked No. 1 in the country since 1989.

But that doesn’t mean that the win should put to bed all the concerns that we had about the No. 12 Cardinals heading into Monday night.

The three losses that the Cardinals suffered were all close losses. Two of them — Syracuse and Georgetown — came down to the final possession. The loss to Villanova was pushed to nine points by free throw shooting in the final minute. But all three losses can be pinpointed on one thing: offensive execution late in games. Against Syracuse, Peyton Siva turned the ball over twice in the final 30 seconds — once with Louisville up a point, which led to a dunk at the other end, and the second time with Louisville down a point. Against Villanova, there were three straight passes from Siva to his big men that weren’t handled well. Against Georgetown, the Cardinals didn’t score from the field in the final four minutes, capped off by two awful, contested pull-up jumpers in the final minute — one from Siva and one from Russ Smith.

The Cardinals caught a break against Pitt.

The Panthers, who aren’t exactly a great free throw shooting team, were 3-12 from the stripe for the game. that played a big role in Louisville taking a 58-52 lead into the final two minutes.

But the Cardinals had two dreadful offensive possessions when trying to ice the win. On the first, Siva dribbled around, aimlessly trying to drive to the basket, before wasting too much time off the shot clock and forcing Gorgui Dieng into an illegal screen by trying to from off of a pick before he was set. After Lamar Patterson hit a three to cut the lead to 58-55, Smith dribbled out the shot clock before trying to split the defenders on a ball-screen. He lost control of the ball and was eventually forced to try and take a jump shot over seven-footer Steven Adams. It was blocked.

And Pitt had the ball back with a chance to tie.

Fortunately for Louisville, their defense held down the stretch thanks to the cushion that Pitt’s shoddy free throw shooting gave them.

They snapped their three-game losing streak.

But I would refrain from calling the win confidence-inspiring.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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