PITTSBURGH (93-7 The FAN) — No. 22 Pitt (11-3, 0-1 Big East) led Notre Dame at halftime Tuesday night, 26-25, but couldn’t prevent an offensive onslaught by the Irish in the final 20 minutes and lost, 72-59.
“I have been a part of a lot of fun games here,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “But this one ranks right up there with the best. To see us play with that swagger in the second half, I guess I just wasn’t sure this group was ready for that.”
Pitt’s defense fell apart in the second half while its offense was largely ineffective all night. The Panthers shot just 40 percent from the field and 7 percent from 3-point range.
Notre Dame shot 51 percent from the field and 37 percent from behind the arc.
With a 26-25 lead, Pitt watched the Irish quickly take the lead. Guards Eric Atkins and Alex Dragicevich scored four points apiece in the first four minutes of the second half to grab a 33-30 lead.
Dragicevich would continue to hassle Pitt, hitting three of his four 3-pointers on the night in the final 15 minutes. His first gave the Irish a 4-point lead, his second gave them a 12-point lead and his third gave them a 16-point lead, 64-48, with 4:05 remaining.
“It was more of a collective effort than anything,” Dragicevich said. “We all knew we needed this win and my teammates told me they were going to put me into a position to score and they did. I knocked a couple down and it was a great feeling.”
Dragicevich finished the game with 22 points to lead all scorers, 17 of which came in the second half. The Irish were 5 for 8 from 3-point range in the second half.
Talib Zanna led Pitt with 13 points, followed by Nasir Robinson and Ashton Gibbs with 12. Tray Woodall returned for his first action in a month and looked rusty, missing all five of his shots and turning the ball over twice in 18 minutes of play.
“Tray is not where he needs to be,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “The doctors told us to let him play about 20 minutes but there is no ideal situation to bring him back other than what we did. We didn’t know until today that he would be ready to play.”