for this game

Louisville shakes off big deficits, dumps No. 1 Pittsburgh

Jan 18, 2009 - 5:46 AM LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Ticker) -- Pittsburgh has to learn that when you are the top team in the country and have a double-digit lead, you must lock it up.

Terrence Williams scored 20 points and Earl Clark added 16 and 11 rebounds Saturday as No. 20 Louisville handed top-ranked Pittsburgh its first loss of the season, 69-63.

Freshman Samardo Samuels chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds for the Cardinals (13-3, 4-0 Big East), who overcame a double-digit deficit in both halves.

One of two undefeated teams left in the Big East Conference along with Marquette (4-0), Louisville has defeated the nation's top team in each of its last two meetings, topping Kentucky on December 27, 2003.

By knocking off the top team again, the Cardinals continued an excellent stretch where they have won eight of their last 10 games against ranked opponents - including their last three overall.

"Once the effort got to the level we wanted it to be, I think we became a good basketball team," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "I think everybody picked it up, each and every one of them. The time is now and our guys have picked it up and played well. They played very good basketball team tonight because of that."

Entering the day one of three remaining undefeated teams in Division I, the Panthers (16-1, 4-1) lost their third straight regular-season meeting with the Cardinals.

"It's our first loss of the season so it's really disappointing," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "I think any loss is. We're going to learn from it, we're going to get better for it. We're going to get ready for Syracuse (on Monday)."

With Pittsburgh's loss and Wake Forest's win over Clemson, the Demon Deacons are the lone undefeated team in the country and will probably move atop the USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll on Monday.

Williams shot 7-of-12 from the field with three 3-pointers and grabbed seven rebounds. Clark, who was celebrating his 21st birthday, grabbed four offensive boards, blocked three shots and collected two steals.

Jermaine Dixon scored a career-high 19 points for Pittsburgh, which won its previous two games with the No. 1 ranking - the school's first.

Dixon finished 3-of-4 on 3-pointers, an impressive stat considering the junior entered the game with only nine baskets from the arc.

"We got great minutes out of Jermaine (Dixon)," Jamie Dixon said.

The Panthers came out strong in this one, catching the Cardinals flat-footed as they took a 17-5 advantage on the first of Dixon's three 3-pointers.

Yet, Louisville was able to get back into the game behind its full-court pressure, forcing Pittsburgh into 10 first-half turnovers to trail just 32-30 at the break.

"We took good shots and we executed, but our press was the key to the game because we were able to wear people out," Pitino said.

The Panthers, who entered the contest averaging 11.5 turnovers, finished with 20.

"We really talked about the press in the backcourt, but also in the frontcourt as far as getting across and making decisions," Jamie Dixon said. "We really emphasized that as much.

"Teams that press usually are going to get a few more turnovers and give up other things and we took advantage of that. At the end of the day, 20 is too much. But I'm sure they're saying the same thing about their 19 turnovers. Again they're pretty much evened out."

Despite the slip-up, Pittsburgh was able to charge back into the lead again after the break, with Sam Young's 3-pointer capping a 7-0 run for a 41-35 advantage with 16:21 remaining.

Young hit another shot from the arc with 9:35 left, making it 51-45. The senior forward then came up with a steal on the other end, knocking the ball away from Clark before flying in for a windmill dunk.

Dixon capped a 9-3 run with a layup, giving the Panthers a 55-45 cushion with 8:55 to play.

Williams responded with a jumper, igniting a 9-0 burst. Clark sandwiched a jumper and a dunk around a 3-pointer by Preston Knowles, bringing the Cardinals within 55-54 with 6:30 left.

Although Dixon had three straight free throws for Pittsburgh, Louisville could not be stopped, as Edgar Sosa hit a layup and then found Samuels open in the middle of the lane for a dunk that tied it at 58-58 with 3:53 to play.

Williams' sweeping layup gave the Cardinals the lead with 2:53 left, and Clark added two free throws before hitting a jumper that just beat the shot clock with 45 seconds to play that capped a 19-3 run.

"He didn't know the time and I kept yelling shoot," Pitino said. "The fans were yelling so loud he couldn't hear it. We made great plays. This is the fourth game in a row right now where we did really smart things going down the stretch."

Tyrell Biggs converted two free throws to bring the Panthers within 64-60 with 18 seconds left, but not even a late three-point play by DeJuan Blair could stop Louisville.

Hampered by foul issues for most of the contest, Blair ended up with nine points and 10 rebounds.

"Our strategy tonight was to go at him," Pitino said of Blair. "When he plays defense he likes to swat the ball away in the low post. We were going to go at him and then we were going to pass opposite when they trapped. Our guys did a good job on that."

Young scored 14 points for Pittsburgh and Levance Fields added eight and seven assists, but also committed six turnovers.