Pitt entered the game leading the nation in free throw percentage but shot just 12 of 20 (60 percent) from the line.
Onuaku carried the Cardinals in a myriad of ways: hitting jumpers from the baseline and top of the key to go with dunks off drop-steps, all while directing the defense.
Louisville used a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to double digits with 16:07 left, capped by Ray Spalding’s reverse layup. The Cardinals led 33-23 when Pitt’s Sheldon Jeter, a 93 percent free throw shooter, missed three straight from the line. That helped Louisville to stretch its lead to 40-25 with 9:33 remaining before Pitt began clawing back. Ryan Luther’s steal and dunk with 4:54 remaining cut the lead to nine before Louisville went on an 11-0 run.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino ditched his tie late in the first half of the slugfest after both teams scored just 11 points in the first 10 minutes. Louisville started 3 of 15 from the field, continuing its funk from Sunday’s 66-62 loss at Clemson, before regrouping midway through the half. The Cardinals clicked off a 9-0 run, with Onuaku scoring the first seven points, to take a 20-14 lead with 4:56 left in the half. The Cardinals held Pitt without a point for nearly 7 minutes before Damon Wilson’s 3 with 2:19 left proved the final score before halftime.
To illustrate just how gnarly it was early: both schools’ football teams scored more points in the first half of their matchup this season than the basketball teams managed in theirs.
In a series that has seen its share of physical contests, Thursday was the lowest combined score in 16 matchups. The previous low came in the first-ever game between the schools in 1947.
Pitt: The Panthers had 11 first-half turnovers, more than their season average for a game, and finished with a season-high 19. … The Panthers shot 29 percent. Their previous scoring low was 59 in a loss to Purdue.
Louisville: Louisville shot 41 percent. Onuaku, who shoots free throws underhanded, matched his career high with four makes from the line. … This is the fifth time the Cardinals have limited an opponent to less than 30 percent shooting this season.