Pitt gives Notre Dame all it can handle before losing in ACC tourney opener
NEW YORK — Will Kevin Stallings be back for a third season with Pitt?
That is the question after the Panthers, despite a game effort, were beaten 67-64 by Notre Dame in the first round of the ACC Tournament on Tuesday at Barclays Center. The loss wrapped up a season in which the Panthers went 8-24 and, including Tuesday's loss, 0-19 against ACC teams.
“We had to turn over an entire roster. And we knew this was going to be a little bit of a tough season. We didn't know it was going to be this tough,” Stallings said. “I'm certainly not ashamed of it or apologetic for it. I'm proud of these guys.”
Since leaving Vanderbilt to come to Pitt, Stallings is 24-41 in two seasons, including a paltry 5-34 against ACC competition.
Firing a coach after two seasons is unusual, but Pitt has been historically bad this season. Plus, Stallings got into some trouble earlier in the year when he taunted a Louisville fan with a reference to paying players.
On top of it all, the athletic director who hired him, Scott Barnes, left for Oregon State last year.
Stallings said he does not know what his future holds and does not believe he has to sell his vision for the program to athletic director Heather Lyke.
Pitt, meanwhile, gave the Fighting Irish all they could handle. Preseason All-American Bonzie Colson was playing just his third game back from a broken foot, and Notre Dame needed him more than it might have expected.
Colson scored 19 points in 33 minutes, and the Irish held off Pitt's late challenge down the stretch.
“The foot is healed. It's fine,” said Colson. “And today we knew it was going to be a grind. We knew it was going to come down to game situations, and we've been through a lot of those this year.”
Notre Dame never could put Pitt away, shooting 4 for 24 from the field in the second half. Things got dicey in the final two minutes.
Jared Wilson-Frame made a 3 from the left wing for Pitt with 1 minute, 34 seconds remaining to cut the lead to 61-58, and he missed another 32 seconds later. After a couple of free throws by Notre Dame's T.J. Gibbs Jr., Marcus Carr hit a 3 to draw the 15th-seeded Panthers within 63-61.
Wilson-Frame and Carr scored 18 points each.
Colson made two from the line with 22.3 seconds left after a loose-ball foul on Carr that drew loud complaints from Stallings. Carr lost the ball on Pitt's next possession, and Notre Dame closed it out without further drama.
Matt Farrell, who missed five games with an ankle injury, scored 18 for the Irish.