Pitt outlasts host Notre Dame, 85-81, in overtime

Kevin Gorman
| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 4:42 p.m.

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – With the ball in his hands and precious few seconds remaining in a tied game, Lamar Patterson had hopes of beating Notre Dame for the first time on his mind.

Then Jamie Dixon, dissatisfied with the spacing for the final shot, called a timeout with 2.8 seconds left. When that play didn't work, Patterson didn't take out his frustrations on the Pitt coach.

He saved it for the Fighting Irish.

Patterson scored eight of his game-high 20 points in overtime, including the two clinching free throws with 2.3 seconds left, to lead the Panthers to an 85-81 victory over Notre Dame in an ACC game Saturday afternoon before 9,149 at Joyce Center.

“I'm going to go with my coach on that,” said Patterson, a fifth-year senior swingman who made 6 of 17 shots from the field but only 1 for 7 3-pointers. “I had tunnel vision at that point in the game, so I couldn't tell who was around me. He made the right call. At the end of the day, we got the ‘W' and that's all that matters.”

It was the third overtime victory this season for Pitt (22-7, 10-6), which set a school record for overtime points (20). The Panthers ended their Irish jinx — the Panthers had lost five consecutive to Notre Dame (15-15, 6-11), and hadn't won at Joyce Center since 2005 — and clinched their 12th season in 13 years with 20 overall and 10 conference wins.

Pitt did so by making 24 of 28 free throws (85.7 percent), including 14 of 15 in overtime, and dominating the boards by a 38-22 edge, with 21 offensive rebounds to Notre Dame's five.

“Controlling the boards, out-rebounding them by 16, and then making free throws is what kept us in the game,” said Pitt freshman forward Mike Young, who made all six free throws and tied his career high with 13 points, “and, ultimately, got us the win.”

Pitt fifth-year senior center Talib Zanna made 5 of 6 free throws to finish with 17 points and 14 rebounds (10 offensive) for his ninth double-double of the season. The Panthers outscored the Irish, 42-18, in the paint, and 21-5 on second-chance points.

They were necessary, given that Notre Dame shot 73.7 percent (14 of 19) from the field in the first half, making 7 of 9 3-pointers (77.8 percent), and made 23 of 27 free throws (85.2 percent).

“To withstand their barrage in the first half says a lot about our guys,” Dixon said. “I think it was a great character game for us, to keep battling and fighting.”

Notre Dame junior Pat Connaughton (19 points) had the hottest hand. The 6-foot-5 swingman was 6 for 7, making all four treys, to score 17 first-half points. He followed a 3 by scoring on a give-and-go that gave the Irish their biggest lead, 28-16, with 7:57 to play in the first half.

“At that point, they could have shot it with the opposite hand and no looking and throwing it at the rim and it was just going in,” Patterson said. “That's what it felt like. It was amazing. If I wasn't playing against it, it would have been enjoyable to watch.”

Pitt answered with an 8-0 run and trailed, 39-35, at halftime. The second half saw Pitt shoot 46.2 percent (12 of 26) while Notre Dame dipped to 36.8 (7 of 19).

Cameron Wright, who had 15 points, scored a three-point play to give the Panthers a 43-41 lead at 17:02 of the second half, and they didn't trail again until overtime.

Pitt led by as many as seven, but the Irish tied it at 65-65 with 7.7 seconds remaining after freshman Steve Vasturia rebounded an Eric Atkins miss and found V.J. Beachem in the right corner for a 3-pointer.

Pitt inbounded it to freshman Josh Newkirk, who was to drive the lane and either find a big man inside or kick it out to Patterson. Instead, his pass was more of a handoff and left Dixon dissatisfied with the spacing.

After the timeout, the Panthers inbounded the ball to point guard James Robinson – who was 1 of 7 from the field at that point – and he missed an off-balance 15-footer fadeaway before the buzzer.

“We won the game, and we'll still be questioned,” Dixon said. “I thought it was terrific, the shot at the end. I thought we put it in a good situation. … Any time you miss a shot, you can question that shot.”

Vasturia scored 12 of his 15 points in overtime, giving the Irish leads of 67-65 on two free throws and 70-68 on a 3-pointer and tying it at 72-72 on two free throws. But Robinson, who was 4 of 4 from the foul line in overtime, gave Pitt the lead for good with two free throws, and Patterson found Zanna for a dunk and a 76-72 lead. Notre Dame twice cut it to one, but Zanna and Young each responded by making two free throws.

When Atkins intentionally missed the back end of a two-shot foul with 2.8 seconds left, Patterson got the rebound and made two free throws.

“It's a good ‘W' for us, especially against Notre Dame,” Patterson said. “I'd never beaten them in my career, so it was good for us to get this win.”

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