Monday’s game turned into a character test for No. 25 Notre Dame, one the Irish found a way to ace.
Looking shaky early against No. 20 Pittsburgh Panthers, the Irish fell into a 16-point hole in less than 13 minutes. The Irish got it turned around with defense and posted a 51-42 Big East victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish led by as many as 9 in the 2nd half after outscoring the Panthers 48-23 following a 1st-half technical foul on Mike Brey.
Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant contributed several big shots in the 2nd half, when he scored 11 of his 13 points. Jack Cooley added 13 points and 9 rebounds for the Irish.
Winners of 5 straight in the series against Panthers and closing in on a 4th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, the Irish improved to 21-6, 9-5 in the Big East, and are alone in 5th place.
Pittsburgh Panthers (20-7, 8-6) has lost 2 in a row, both to ranked teams, including Saturday’s loss to Marquette Golden Eagles.
Notre dame found a way to win by doing something it could not do a couple of days earlier at Providence: defend. After allowing Providence to do as it pleased — the Friars scored 71 points and outrebounded the Irish by 11 without coming across much resistance — Notre Dame was a more determined bunch Monday.
The Irish held the Panthers to 34.8 percent shooting. That included 0-for-8 from 3-point range, the 1st time in Brey’s tenure at Notre Dame that a league adversary couldn’t get at least one 3 to fall against the Irish.
Notre dame also dominated the backboard, finishing with 40 rebounds to 25 for Pittsburgh. And for one of the few times, it wasn’t just Cooley working as a one-man show on the boards. Each one of the 5 starters had at least 4 rebounds.
“The way we reflected back today was phenomenal,” asserted Cooley. “To out-rebound them that badly is huge. It just shows how tough our team is.”
Tray Woodall had 11 points and was the only Pittsburgh player in double figures.
“We just let it escape from us,” Woodall said.”We played selfish.”
After going 0-for-7 from the floor in the 1st half, Grant hit 3 big 3s in the 2nd half. The 1st capped a 26-9 run and gave Notre Dame its first lead. Baseball odds
That basket came with just under 15 minutes left, and the ball bounced high off the rim and fell thru to give Notre Dame a 29-28 lead. And when Cooley tipped in an Irish miss, Notre Dame’s lead was bumped to 3.
After Grant’s third 3-pointer, which stretched the Irish lead straight to 9, Grant coolly peeked at the Irish bench and pointed to his head coach, who pointed back at Grant.
“He was telling me, ‘Just keep shooting the ball,’” Grant recounted. “I was off, I had a couple turnovers, but I had to just keep shooting the ball.”
The Irish, still sluggish after playing 3 of four league games in overtime, missed 18 of their 1st 19 shots to fall into an early 13-point hole.
Notre dame then made 5 of 6 and pulled within 2 points following a Cooley basket.