Notre Dame’s season ends with ugly first round loss to Pitt
Aidan Thomas | Thursday, March 5, 2020
While an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament was virtually impossible, the Notre Dame women’s basketball team hoped their hot streak to end the regular season was the sign of a Cinderella run in the ACC Tournament. Unfortunately, the 10th-seeded Irish may have gotten caught looking ahead, they dropped a 67-65 heartbreaker to the 15th-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers to end their season in unceremonious fashion. The Panthers were just 1-17 in ACC play and 5-25 overall on the season, but they never let the Irish pull away Wednesday afternoon and, eventually, hit a game-winning jumper with two seconds to go. Pitt stole the ball on the ensuing inbounds play to secure the win.
The game got off to a great start for the Irish, as they jumped to a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes, with freshman forward Sam Brunelle drilling a three to punctuate the game-opening spurt. Notre Dame extended the lead to 11-3, but their pace slowed, and the Panthers slowly crawled back into the game, narrowing the deficit to a single point at 13-12. Notre Dame got some of their mojo back courtesy of graduate student Marta Sniezek hitting a three with 31 seconds left in the period that fueled an 8-0 run to take a 21-12 lead, but the Panthers woke up and ended the period on a 22-12 run to take their first lead of the game. They extended their advantage up to eight points in the second half, but Notre Dame was able to cut it down to 51-47 heading into a dramatic final stanza.
Graduate student guard Destinee Walker and sophomore guard Katlyn Gilbert each nailed a jumper to tie the score within the first minute of the quarter, and the two teams traded buckets for several possessions, but Pitt took a 59-57 preceding a lengthy drought from both teams that saw several minutes drain from the clock.
However, much like the rest of the game, both offenses suddenly got hot for a quick spurt, but Notre Dame could only match the Panthers, as Sniezek made a layup to close the gap to 65-63 with 2:54 to go in the game. It was the last field goal for two minutes and 33 seconds of game clock, but Gilbert got a layup to fall with 21 seconds remaining to tie the game one final time.
However, Notre Dame’s rally was not to be, as Pitt worked the clock down before drilling a jumper with just a pair of ticks remaining. The Irish could not get a miracle bucket, and their hopes for a deep tournament run were crushed in the first round. Gilbert had 20 points for the Irish, but no other Notre Dame player notched more than a dozen points. The Irish also got just three points from their bench. The early exit will end a streak of 24 consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, and it completes a stunning fall from grace for Notre Dame, who won the national title in 2018 and finished as the national runner-up last season.