Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Louisville head coach Rick Pitino called it a must win.
In the span of two weeks, his squad has gone from holding the No. 1 ranking to being on the verge of its longest losing streak in nearly nine years.
The 12th-ranked Cardinals had to sweat it out, but they're back in the win column following a 64-61 triumph over Pittsburgh.
The win snapped a three-game losing streak. Louisville hadn't dropped four in a row since Feb. 12-25, 2004, and hadn't lost four straight Big East tilts since joining the league in 2005-06.
"I loved the way we defended tonight. We did a lot of good things," Pitino said.
Russ Smith netted 20 points to lead the Cardinals (17-4, 5-3 Big East), who played without starting forward Wayne Blackshear as he missed the contest with a right shoulder sprain.
Gorgui Dieng added 14 points and 12 boards in the win.
Tray Woodall tallied 14 points for the Panthers (17-5, 5-4), who had their four-game winning streak snapped.
"Obviously it was a close game, went their way," said Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon. "They made their free throws, we didn't. We can kind of sum it up that way."
Pittsburgh trailed by as many as 11 in the second half, but a Lamar Patterson 3-pointer with 1:18 left pulled the Panthers within 58-55. Smith missed a jumper at the other end and Woodall was fouled on the rebound, but was unable to convert on the front end of a one-and-one with 44 ticks to go.
Chane Behanan sunk two free throws to put the Cardinals up by five with 24 seconds on the clock, but Woodall knocked down a long triple to keep the Panthers alive and make it 60-58 with 13 seconds to play.
Dieng made two free throws and Patterson misfired from beyond the arc at the other end to seal the win for Louisville.
The Cardinals led by as many as 12 in the opening half before taking a 32-26 cushion into the break.
Peyton Siva dished out 10 assists for the Cardinals ... Louisville has won four straight contests in the series ... The Cardinals shot 45.1 percent (23- of-51) from the floor.
01/29 01:29:45 ET