After an ugly start, Notre Dame pulled off the mild upset over Pittsburgh at the Petersen Events Center Monday night, using a second-half surge to top their conference rivals, 51-42.
The first half got off to a sluggish start, to say the least. In just over six minutes of action, Pittsburgh held a 5-1 lead.
The Panthers then went on a 6-0 run before Notre Dame scored its first bucket at the 10:50 mark. The Fighting Irish had gone 0-of-11 from the field before Tom Knight's score made it an 11-3 deficit.
With 6:20 remaining in the first half, Pittsburgh held a 19-3 lead.
But, after a technical on Irish head coach Mike Brey, Notre Dame went on a 16-3 run to close the half, jump-started by Pat Connaughton's consecutive three-pointers and capped off by two buckets from Jack Cooley.
The offense picked up for Notre Dame as the second half progressed, taking the lead with 14:45 remaining after a three-pointer by Jerian Grant. Pittsburgh regained the lead with 12 minutes remaining, but the visitors began to wear on the Panthers down the stretch.
Although the Fighting Irish only shot 38 percent from the floor, they were able to hold the Panthers to 35 percent shooting. They also out-rebounded the Panthers, 36-22 (10-2 in the offensive rebound department), especially thoroughly in the second half.
Grant totaled 13 points, Cooley notched 13 points and nine rebounds, and Eric Atkins posted 10 points and seven assists in Notre Dame's victory.
Pittsburgh's leading scorer this season, senior guard Tray Woodall, managed 11 points.
The way this season has been going, it was only fitting that No. 25 Notre Dame defeated No. 20 Pittsburgh Monday night. The 2012-2013 college basketball season appears to be curiously favoring the underdog.
In the first half, Bleacher Report lead NBA draft writer Jonathan Wasserman piggybacked off CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman regarding the absence of Notre Dame's injured team captain Scott Martin:
Value of stretch big men RT @goodmancbs Notre Dame's spacing is just not the same with Tom Knight on the court in place of Scott Martin.— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 19, 2013
To say Notre Dame was struggling from the floor in the early going would be a wild understatement. ESPN Stats & Info noted:
13 minutes into the 1st half, Notre Dame has just 3 points on 1-19 FG against Pittsburgh— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 19, 2013
Jamie Ramsey of MLBlogs.com wasn't impressed with either team as the first half came to a close:
BREAKING: Both Notre Dame and Pittsburgh have dropped out of the top 25 with 4 minutes left in the first half of their game...on Monday.— Jamie Ramsey (@Jamieblog) February 19, 2013
While Notre Dame struggled to score throughout the game, the defense held Pittsburgh within range, as Tom Noie of the South Bend Tribune noted:
Noie (@tnoieNDInsider) February 19, 2013
Pittsburgh sportswriter Jerry DiPaola highlighted a stunning turnaround for the Fighting Irish:
From 19-3, Pitt, with 6:20 left in firsthalf to 34-40, Notre Dame, with 6:00 left in the game— Jerry DiPaola (@JDiPaola_Trib) February 19, 2013