Looking to stay off of the NCAA tournament “bubble,” the Pitt Panthers traveled to South Bend to face the Notre Dame Irish on Saturday afternoon, who had won the previous five matchups against Pitt. This was the first meeting between former Big East foes in the ACC.
The Irish essentially were playing with nothing to lose, while Pitt hoped to continue to rack up wins for its tournament resume.
In a very strenuous back-and-forth battle, the Pitt Panthers were able to finally close out a tight game down the stretch, defeating Notre Dame 85-81 in overtime.
For Pitt (22-7, 10-6 ACC), senior guard Lamar Patterson lead all scorers with 20 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Senior center Talib Zanna recorded 17 points and 14 rebounds. Junior guard Cameron Wright added 15 points,and freshman forward Michael Young scored 13.
For Notre Dame (15-15, 6-11 ACC), junior guard Pat Connaughton scored 19 points and senior guard Eric Atkins added 17 points and nine assists. Freshman guard Steve Vasturia added 15 points in the loss.
Pitt took its biggest lead at 63-56 on a Wright layup with 6:25 remaining. From that moment forward, Pitt only scored two more points (a Michael Young tip-in), but led the Irish 65-62 with under a minute remaining in the game.
With 24 seconds left, Wright missed the front end of a one-and-one, and ND freshman V.J. Beachem buried a 3 with eight seconds left in the game.
Pitt called a timeout and Notre Dame decided not to pressure Pitt up the court. Patterson got the ball and had a step on his defender in what looked to be a game-winning layup; however, Panthers coach Jamie Dixon called a timeout with 2.8 seconds remaining. This would lead to a James Robinson missed jumper and the game went to overtime on a very questionable call.
In overtime, Vasturia lead the Irish with 12 points, knocking down two 3-pointers. For Pitt, Patterson scored eight points, and the Panthers were 15 of 16 from the free-throw line in the extra session.
With Pitt leading 79-78, Zanna buried both free throws with 10 seconds left. Pitt fouled to prevent a 3, and then Michael Young knocked down both free throws to make it 83-80. Pitt would foul again, and Atkins missed his second attempt.
Patterson would then make both free throws to give Pitt the victory. It was certainly nice to see Pitt finish off a close game, despite the poorly-timed timeout. As for now, the Panthers appear to be safe and off the NCAA bubble.
Pitt dominated the boards with a 39-22 rebounding advantage and a large advantage in second chance points.
In the first half, Zanna led the Panthers with six points and seven rebounds (six offensive). Wright scored eight points, and Patterson chipped in six.
For Notre Dame, Connaughton scored 17 points on 6 of 7 shooting (4 for 4 from 3-point range), and Atkins scored seven. The Irish shot an impressive 73.7 percent from the field in the first half and were 7 of 9 for three-pointers, whereas Pitt shot 39.4 percent.
With under nine minutes remaining in the half, the Irish jumped out to a 26-14 lead off of a Connaughton 3-pointer. But Pitt began to play better defense and went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to two with a little over 3 minutes remaining.
Connaughton drained a 3 with 14 seconds left in the first half, and Pitt responded, as freshman point guard Josh Newkirk knocked down a long-distance shot with three seconds remaining. Notre Dame went into the break leading 39-35.
Notre Dame’s hot shooting cooled off in the second half, and a Cameron Wright jumper gave Pitt a 42-41 lead with 17 minutes remaining. Pitt held Connaughton to only two points in the second half.
Pitt will host NC State on Monday night, and Notre Dame will travel to No. 19 UNC on Monday.
Brett is a staff writer for City of Champions. Follow him on Twitter.