LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – This wasn’t a Must Win game for the University of Louisville basketball team. This was a Can’t Lose game.

Can’t lose to a Pittsburgh program that had lost 16 consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season games, including a dozen in a row this season.

Can’t lose to a team with a consensus sub-175 computer ranking and expect the NCAA Tournament Selection committee to disregard the result on Selection Sunday.

Can’t lose to a program that the Cards beat by 55 points in the Petersen Events Center last season.

Louisville did not win by 55 at Pitt Sunday afternoon, although they could have. David Padgett stopped the beatdown at 34, substituting liberally through the second half of the Cards' 94-60 win.

Pitt is officially horrible, but the Cards' offensive and defensive performance resonated with Ken Pomeroy's college basketball computer power formula. Louisville advanced eight spots, from No. 36 to No. 28, moving past Kentucky (32) and others.

"We played well defensively," Padgett said after the game on the ACC Network telecast. "We were locked in on the scouting report. We really, really shared the ball."

Ten Cardinals scored, led by V. J. King, Anas Mahmoud and Malik Williams Those three had 14 each. Pitt had zero fast break points. The Cards shot 63 percent and limited Pitt to 34.5 percent from the field.

"(Mahmoud) gets us going offensively because the ball is never stopping with him," Padgett said. "He played really, really well."

Louisville improved to 18-8. The Cards are 8-5 in the ACC, tied with North Carolina and Duke for third place, pending Duke’s game with Georgia Tech Sunday.

For Pitt, the highlight video lasted less than 4 ½ minutes. The Panthers came out launching threes. You could ask if coach Kevin Stallings thought that was Pitt’s best opportunity to craft an upset but the truth is Pitt (now 0-13 in the ACC) is just trying to get to the end of the season.

Pitt missed its first shot from distance and then made three in a row. That gave the Panthers an 11-7 advantage. Take a picture of the scoreboard. Pitt did not stay ahead long.

Before anybody on the Cardinals’ bench had time to squirm, Louisville imposed its will on the hapless home team.

Louisville scored 11 straight. Pitt scored two. The Cards hung a 17-0 run on the Panthers toward the end of the half. Pitt did not make a field goal over the final 8:53 of the first half – or the first 3:17 of the second half. That's 12 minutes of nothing.

It wasn’t a perfect performance for Padgett’s team but it was close enough

He was able to rest forward Deng Adel and his injured left ankle. Adel sat on the bench, with a protective boot on his left foot, for the entire 40 minutes.

Padgett started freshman point guard Darius Perry, and Perry was one of four Louisville freshmen who delivered.

Credit Perry with seven points and seven assists. Jordan Nwora continued his impressive shooting, making five of six attempts while scoring 13 – with six boards. Nwora made one shot from distance. Malik Williams made four three-pointers while scoring 14. Lance Thomas had six points in 10 minutes before fouling out.

"The most impressive thing to me with this game and our game the other day with Georgia Tech was, when you lose your leading scorer and one of your best players, sometimes guys try to come in and make up for that themselves," Padgett said. 

"We didn't do that. Guys just did what they do. Darius distributed the ball and he defended. Jordan came in and shot the ball well and he defended. Ryan (McMahon) played well. It was just good to see the whole team make up for the void of your leading scorer."

No more putts in the leather for Padgett’s team, even though the Cardinals have five days off before they host North Carolina, the defending NCAA champions at 8:15 p.m. Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Cards’ five remaining ACC opponents (UNC and Virginia at home; Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina State) are all projected to make the NCAA Tournament by ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi.

They’re all ranked in the Top 60 nationally by Ken Pomeroy. Virginia (1), Duke (5) and UNC (10) are in Pomeroy’s Top 10.

"We had a long two-week stretch," Padgett said. "We played five games in two weeks. We let a couple get away at home to some good teams. But we've bounced back and got these last two in a row.

"Now we've got a couple days to regroup and hopefully get Deng healthy and get ready for next Saturday because I know Carolina is playing very, very well right now."

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