LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Pittsburgh's perfect season unraveled in
a perfect storm of missed shots, missed opportunities and one
exquisitely timed birthday party by Louisville's Earl Clark.
The junior forward scored 16 points - including the clinching
jumper with 45 seconds remaining - and grabbed 11 rebounds on his
21st birthday to lift the 20th-ranked Cardinals over the No. 1
Panthers, 69-63 on Saturday night.
"This game will help," said Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields.
"Nobody wants to lose, but it's always good to get a loss on
yourself so you know you're not unbeaten - so you know somebody can
Clark and the surging Cardinals (13-3, 4-0) left no doubt.
Louisville smothered the Panthers (16-1, 4-1) over the game's
final 8 minutes, holding Pittsburgh to 1-of-16 shooting down the
stretch to end Pittsburgh's first run at the top of the poll. The
loss left No. 2 Wake Forest as the only unbeaten team in Division
"Give them credit, they beat us," said Pittsburgh coach Jamie
Dixon, after his team turned the ball over a season-high 20 times
against Louisville's fullcourt pressure. "We played well, they
played well. They made shots down the stretch."
The biggest of them coming from Clark, who shrugged off a
sluggish first half to lead Louisville on a 24-8 burst over the
final 8:55 and lift the Cardinals to their first win over a No. 1
team since beating Florida on Dec. 13, 2003.
The normally modest Clark celebrated afterward by standing at
midcourt next to coach Rick Pitino, blushing a little as 20,000 of
his new best friends at Freedom Hall serenaded him with a rousing
rendition of "Happy Birthday."
"It's a great win, it just happens to be on my birthday,"
Maybe, but Louisville's most talented player isn't the only one
coming of age. So is his suddenly red-hot team.
"We made great plays," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino.
"This is the fourth game in a row right now where we did really
smart things down the stretch."
Jermaine Dixon had a career-high 19 points but missed the front
end of a 1-and-1 with 1:25 remaining and the Panthers trailing by
four points. Sam Young added 14 points for Pittsburgh, but the
Panthers battled foul trouble all night. Center DeJuan Blair had
just nine points and 10 rebounds in 20 foul-plagued minutes.
"We talked about staying out of foul trouble and that was the
difference," Jamie Dixon said.
The Panthers had risen to the top spot in the rankings behind 16
dominant but largely anonymous wins. Pittsburgh missed a chance to
add a little quality to its quantity thanks to a nightmarish final
8:48, when a 55-45 lead evaporated.
Terrence Williams scored 20 points and started Louisville's
surge with a pull-up jumper. Clark followed with a shot from the
corner. Preston Knowles drilled a 3-pointer before Clark dunked on
the break to pull the Cardinals within 55-54 with 6:25 left.
Louisville finally pulled even at 58-all on a jam by Samardo
Samuels and Louisville took the lead for good on a layup by
Williams with 2:53 left.
The Panthers, who'd answered every previous Louisville surge,
wilted late as the Cardinals' pressure simply wore them down.
"When you press the whole game, you're going to have some
turnovers and I thought we had too many," Dixon said. "At the end
of the day, 20 is too much."
Even when the Panthers held on to the ball, they couldn't knock
down the shots. They shot just 30.6 percent in the second half,
including 3-of-15 from 3-point range. Blair's absence due to foul
trouble allowed the Cardinals to hold a 42-38 edge on the boards.
The victory capped a thrilling week for Louisville, who beat No.
12 Notre Dame 87-73 in overtime on Monday.
Clark made sure the extra work wasn't necessary this time,
shrugging off a sluggish first half in which he made just 2-of-10
field goals by doing a little bit everything in the second half as
the Cardinals hung around long enough for their offense to get
"I've just got to keep trusting in myself, keep going and
things will come to me," Clark said. "When things aren't falling
I had to get more aggressive."
The rivalry has become one of the Big East's most heated since
the Cardinals joined the conference three years ago, with only one
of the previous six meetings being decided by more than six points.
Saturday night was no different, with the Cardinals making the
plays when it mattered to serve notice it may be the team to beat
in the nation's toughest conference.
"We are strong-willed and a strong-minded team," Williams
said. "For us to be 4-0 and beat great competition and the No. 1
team, it speaks volumes. We're not done yet until we hold up that