Before speaking on the state of his own team, Louisville head coach Kenny Payne reflected on the Pitt program.
“We’ve played a lot of good teams in this conference, guys I’m just here to tell you that probably the most complete and toughest team that we’ve faced in this conference is Pittsburgh,” Payne said. “Tough, fight, can score, can score a multitude of ways, they share the ball, they talk on defense.”
Pitt (17-7, 10-3 ACC) defeated Louisville 91-57 Tuesday night, a 34-point win in the history books as the largest margin of victory for the Panthers in ACC play and largest differential in a conference in since Jan. 25, 1988, against Providence – the game Jerome Lane sent it in. Jeff Capel’s team conquered the Cardinals 75-54 in Louisville on Jan. 18.
The Panthers are now tied for first place in the conference with seven games remaining in the regular season before the ACC Tournament begins in exactly one month. Payne believes the Panthers could be destined for an extended dance in March Madness.
“They’re the type of team that could go deep in the NCAA tournament,” Payne said.
He reflected on a play when Federiko Federiko threw Cardinal guard Mike James to the floor and both were assessed a technical foul with 16:55 remaining in the game. In his first year at Louisville, Payne wants the toughness displayed by Pitt players to be an example of his overall desire.
“That’s what they live for,” Payne said. “I watched their huddle [after the play] and I saw what I want my guys to be. I want my guys to be tough like that, to fight like that, to be one like that.
“When one guy is down, I hear four others talking to that one.”
Louisville dropped to 3-21 overall and 1-12 in ACC play. Payne’s attempt to warn his team about the Panthers’ abilities did not answer any questions on the court.
“It was a fight, and we didn’t show up,” Payne said. “I tried really hard to explain to the players exactly who you’re facing, exactly who you’re playing against. Out of all the teams that we’ve played, none better than Pittsburgh.”