No. 2 Pitt falls to Notre Dame
Pitt had used unselfish play and teamwork during its flawless Big East start.
On Monday night against Notre Dame, the Panthers weren't so patient.
No. 2 Pitt rushed shots on offense and had breakdowns on defense, and the result was a 56-51 loss to No. 15 Notre Dame at Petersen Events Center.
"We were a little selfish," Pitt senior Gilbert Brown said. "We did a lot of things uncharacteristic, and you see the outcome. That's the reason why we lost."
It was a rare home loss for Pitt (19-2, 7-1 Big East), who has dropped three in a row to a Notre Dame team that uses patience to beat the Panthers at their own game. The loss snapped Pitt's 20-game home winning streak and was only Pitt's second loss in its past 53 home games.
"(Notre Dame) deserved to win," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They made the plays down the stretch. ... At times, we rushed some shots, and it kept us from getting where we wanted to be. Quick shots and turnovers get magnified when it's a low-possession game."
Notre Dame guard Ben Hansbrough scored a game-high 19 points, including eight in the final 4:20, and he added seven assists for the Fighting Irish (17-4, 6-3). Carlton Scott had 16 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame, which had lost its previous three conference road games -- to Syracuse, St. John's and Marquette -- by an average of 17.3 points.
Pitt finished with a season-low nine assists. Pitt leads the nation in assists at 20.1 per game.
"I don't think we played our game today," Panthers guard Brad Wanamaker said. "As you've seen in games past, we played together and passed the ball around and got everybody shots. I don't think we did that today. We kind of rushed it a little bit."
Notre Dame has the next nine days off, and coach Mike Brey told his team, which has five senior starters, to prepare to give everything.
"I told (Hansbrough), 'Heat the stove up for Monday night because we are burning all night,' " he said.
Pitt, which had won nine in a row, shot 40 percent from the field (18 for 45), matching its worst effort of the season, and 56.3 percent from the free-throw line (9 for 16).
Notre Dame employed the same patient style of play it used to beat Pitt twice last season. The Fighting Irish worked the shot clock running set plays and making the extra pass -- ingredients Pitt had used during its torrid Big East start.
"That's their formula for us," Brown said. "It's worked the past three games. We are usually the team that grinds it out and plays a half-court set."
Notre Dame went on a 15-5 run to turn a 36-31 deficit into a 46-41 lead on Scott's four-point play with 7:12 remaining.
Pitt got to within 46-45, but Hansbrough scored three consecutive baskets, twice driving through the lane for easy layups, to keep the Irish on top.
"We just couldn't contain him off the dribble," Dixon said. "I was surprised by how he was able to beat us. He played well. He hurt us in a lot of ways."
Down, 54-51, with less than a minute to play, Pitt had a chance to cut the deficit. But Wanamaker missed an off-balance, driving layup attempt, and Notre Dame grabbed the rebound with 48 seconds to play. Hansbrough then made another driving layup for a 56-51 lead with 17 seconds left.
Gibbs, who was 4 for 13 from the field, missed a 3-pointer, and Notre Dame held on for its first win at The Pete in six tries.
"We need to get better because of what we did today," Dixon said. "It's one loss. I know a lot will be made of it. We're used to that. We will learn from it, and I think we will be better because of it."