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Climbing out of a Pitt

Michael Bryan | Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Irish bounced back a week after a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to Louisville, upsetting No. 16 Pittsburgh (21-7, 10-5 Big East) 68-53 at the Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame (18-10, 7-8) used a balanced scoring attack and strong defensive effort to cruise to a big win.

Even with senior forward Luke Harangody missing his third straight game because of a bone bruise in his right knee, the Irish shot, rebounded and defended better than the visiting Panthers.

Junior forward Tim Abromaitis led the Irish with 17 points, and four Notre Dame players scored at least 13. Junior guard Ben Hansbrough tallied 15 points, senior guard Tory Jackson notched 14 and junior forward Tyrone Nash finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.

“I’m really happy with this group, they played their backsides off,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “The past couple games without Luke it’s been tough, but they’ve really kept it up in practice and I think tonight it paid off.”

The Irish got off to a quick start, winning the opening tip and taking an early 6-0 lead on 3s from Jackson and Abromaitis. While the Panthers quickly closed the lead to two, the Irish would maintain the lead for the rest of the game.

With Notre Dame up 12-10, the starting unit then created a 10-0 run, punctuated by an Abromaitis dunk off a nice feed from Jackson.

Abromaitis credited the defensive effort with Notre Dame’s success.

“I think it was a team effort really,” Abromaitis said. “Everybody came out ready to guard their man, we were getting rebounds all night. I think we just came out ready to play.”

A freshman guard Travon Woodall jump-shot with three minutes remaining in the first half finally cut the Irish lead down to four points, but Notre Dame responded before the break. Jackson had a nice crossover and fade-away as time expired to give the Irish a 35-28 lead heading to the locker room.

The Irish were able to begin extending the lead after halftime, with junior forward Carleton Scott hitting two big 3-pointers as the shot clock wound down. While the Panthers struggled offensively Notre Dame was on fire from the perimeter, hitting 10 of its first 14 3-point attempts.

An Abromaitis 3 from the wing extended the Irish lead to 52-29, and Pittsburgh was forced into desperation mode. Notre Dame was unfazed by the Panthers full-court pressure and continued to stymie the Pitt offense.

With the lead comfortably in hand, the Irish used up the clock down the stretch before celebrating the much-needed win.

“A lot of teams haven’t beaten Pittsburgh, this conference is tough,” Jackson said.

“Whenever you can get a Big East win, it’s a positive. It shows us and everyone that we can still compete, we can still do this as a team, we can play with the best in the league.”

Note:  Before the game Harangody was the first inductee into Notre Dame’s Ring of Honor at Purcell Pavilion. A banner honoring Harangody’s number 44 was unveiled and will be joined in the future by former and present men’s and women’s basketball players and volleyball players who have made notable contributions to the university during their careers.

The Irish will next travel to No. 13 Georgetown on Saturday, with tip-off at noon.