Pittsburgh dominates glass, beats Notre Dame 85-81 in OT
Matthew DeFranks | Saturday, March 1, 2014
Pittsburgh cleaned the glass before shattering Notre Dame’s comeback bid with an 85-81 overtime win over the Irish on Senior Day.
The Panthers (22-7, 10-6 ACC) grabbed 21 offensive boards on their way to 21 second-chance points as they outrebounded Notre Dame (15-15, 6-11) 38-22. The Irish shot 23 fewer shots than the Panthers, who put up 65 shots.
“For a team that puts a lot of shooters out there, you’ve got to hurt them in other ways and that’s what we did,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. “You always love seeing good rebounding because it’s such an effort stat, and that’s why we’re so good at it.”
Redshirt senior Talib Zanna led the Panthers with 14 rebounds, including 10 offensive, and added 14 points.
“They just do a great job of attacking the boards,” Irish senior guard Eric Atkins said. “They’re athletic and I think they just beat us up. I’m not exactly sure why it was so tough.”
The Irish are now 3-10 when they are outrebounded by their opponent and drop to .500 heading into their final regular season game at No. 19 North Carolina. In Wednesday’s win over Georgia Tech, Notre Dame was plus-three in the rebounding battle.
“As good as our big guys were Wednesday, it was a tough night for them today,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.
After trailing by 12 in the first half, Pittsburgh opened up a seven-point edge with 6:24 left in the second half. But the Irish stormed back, scoring nine of regulation’s last 11 points to send the game into overtime.
Freshman forward V.J. Beachem hit a game-tying 3-pointer in the corner with 7.7 seconds remaining to knot the game at 65.
On the ensuing Panthers possession, Pittsburgh redshirt senior guard Lamar Patterson had the ball on the right wing driving to the basket. But Dixon called a timeout with 2.8 seconds remaining.
“I didn’t like the spacing at the end, and that’s what we did,” Dixon said. “I thought it was the right play, and it turned out that it wasn’t. We got a good look right after that. Any time you miss a shot, you can question that shot.”
Coming out of the timeout, sophomore guard James Robinson settled for a fadeaway jumper as time expired that clanked off the rim.
In overtime, it was all Steve Vasturia for the Irish. The freshman guard scored Notre Dame’s first 10 points in the extra period and finished with 15 points, all of which came in the final 11 minutes of the game.
“I was just trying to make an impact, same mentality of the whole game,” Vasturia said. “Got some open shots and just didn’t hesitate and everything went in.”
Vasturia was grabbed a key offensive rebound that set up Beachem’s game-tying trey. Vasturia led the Irish with six rebounds and snagged three of Notre Dame’s five offensive boards.
Vasturia also made all six of his free throw attempts.
“He’s good with the ball, made good decisions and he does make clutch shots,” Brey said. “He hasn’t shot it well in the first half but in the second half and overtime, he made some big ones.
“He looks like a junior out there. He looks like a guy that’s played 60 college games.”
Irish sophomore forward Austin Burgett had a chance to tie the game with 12.1 when he was fouled on a corner three-point attempt. Burgett made the first two free throws, but missed the third and the Irish trailed 79-78.
The Irish would cut the lead to one once more but Pittsburgh was 14-for-15 at the charity stripe in overtime to secure the win.
Junior forward Pat Connaughton led the Irish with 19 points despite twisting his ankle in the second half. Atkins added 17 points and nine assists in his final regular-season home game.
Notre Dame led by as many as 12 points in the first half but watched as the lead shrunk to two when the Panthers went on a 12-2 run over 4:45 in the first half.
The Irish led by just four at the break despite shooting 74 percent from the field and 78 percent from behind the arc. The Panthers, meanwhile, shot 39 percent and 22 percent from the field and on 3-pointers, respectively.
In the second half, Notre Dame shot just 37 percent while Pittsburgh shot 47 percent.
The Panthers stayed hot in the second half, opening the period on a 16-6 run to take a 51-45 lead with 14:36 left. When freshman guard Josh Newkirk converted a three-point play with 17:02 to give the Panthers a 43-41 lead, it was Pittsburgh’s first lead since 4-2.