Pitt Boosts Its NCAA Tourney Resume With Upset Over No. 8 Notre Dame 76-72


Jan 31, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers guard James Robinson (0) goes to the basket as Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Jerian Grant (L) and guard Steve Vasturia (R) defend during the second half at the Petersen Events Center. Pittsburgh won 76-72. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jamie Dixon’s Pitt Panthers desperately needed a big-time win against a Top-10 opponent, especially after a deflating road loss to the lowly Virginia Tech Hokies earlier this week.

The Fighting Irish were coming off a huge win against No. 4 Duke and riding a 5-game winning streak.

Coach Mike Brey decided not to run his “burn” offense against Pitt this time around.

And it didn’t end well for his No. 8 Notre Dame squad.

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After being burned my countless three-pointers against Duke, Louisville, and Virginia Tech, the Panthers stepped up their defensive, man-to-man presence against the No. 2 team in the country in field goal percentage.

Pitt needed more than some defensive stands though.

James Robinson was busted in the mouth and elbowed in the head, but he gave Notre Dame some pain with a late runner to give Pitt a one-point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining.

The offense had often been stagnant in several games this season, with very poor shooting performances.  This was not the case today, as Pitt put on a shooting clinic and showed unselfishness with 24 assists in a 76-72 upset in front of a sellout crowd.

The Panthers shot 58.5% (31 for 53) and were 50% from the three-point line (4 for 8), whereas the Irish shot 53.1% (26 for 49) and 38.9% from the three-point line (7 for 18).  Notre Dame didn’t attempt a three-pointer in the first 8 minutes of the game.

The Oakland Zoo was loudest all season, making it quite an atmosphere to experience.

For Pitt (14-8, 4-5 ACC), four of five starters scored in double figures, as sophomore forward Jamel Artis scored 20 points and hauled in 8 rebounds, sophomore forward Michael Young scored 16 points, junior guard James Robinson recorded his first double-double with 15 points and 10 assists, and senior guard Cameron Wright scored 14 points with two key blocks.

Sophomore guard Josh Newkirk made his first start for the Panthers, replacing redshirt sophomore guard Chris Jones in the lineup.  Newkirk finished with 6 points and Jones added 5 points.  These six guys predominantly played the entire game, showing much heart and determination to get the upset win.

Though Artis proclaimed this was not an upset, the rest of America disagrees.  Hopefully this type of performance can give Pitt a shot of confidence going into the final 10-game stretch.

For Notre Dame (20-3, 8-2 ACC), four starters also scored in double figures, as sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson scored 15 points and senior guard Jerian Grant added 14 points.  Grant was held to only 5 points with three minutes remaining, and he was responsible for nearly bringing Notre Dame back for the win.  Sophomore guard Steve Vasturia finished with 12 points and missed a late game-winning three-point attempt, while junior forward Zach Auguste added 12 points.

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  • Pitt started the game strong, pulling out to an 11-6 lead with an Artis jumper at the 16:34 mark.

    Back –to-back three pointers by V.J. Beachum and Pat Connaughton gave Notre Dame a 20-13 advantage, but Pitt held Connaughton in check for most of the game.

    Pitt punched back, as Newkirk drained a three-pointer to give Pitt a 27-23 advantage with 6:35 remaining.  Both squads exchanged blows, resulting in a 38-37 Notre Dame advantage in a high-scoring first half.

    In the second half, Vasturia and Jackson nailed back-to-back threes, but Pitt responded with a three of its own by Newkirk to make it 46-44 Pitt.

    With less than six minutes remaining, Pitt went on an important 8-0 run to lead 71-63 with three minutes remaining.

    Grant took over for Notre Dame at this point, scoring the next 9 points, including the go-ahead free throw with 32 seconds on the clock.

    Robinson hit a late runner with 13 seconds left to give Pitt the lead at 73-72.  Vasturia missed a wide open three from the corner, and Artis converted both free throws with 4 seconds left.

    Connaughton turned the ball over and Robinson made a free throw to secure the 76-72 upset.

    Pitt needed this game much more than Notre Dame, and this gives Pitt life with regards to the NCAA Tournament.

    Robinson may have very well saved the season for Pitt, and Pitt improves to 14-2 against Top-10 opponents since the Peterson Events Center opened in 2002.


    Pitt will host Bryant on Monday night in an unusual nonconference game, followed by a Saturday matchup against Syracuse at home.

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