A night that started sloppy and sluggish ended on a high note as the Notre Dame basketball team beat Pittsburgh 51-42 at the Peterson Events Center in the Steel City. The Panthers' 200th all-time game in their home arena was just their 22nd loss in the building and marked Notre Dame's fifth consecutive win over Pitt.
The Irish (21-6, 9-5 Big East) scored the first point of the game, but Pittsburgh (20-7, 8-6) then used an 11-0 run to go up 11-1 in the game's opening minutes. Notre Dame suffered dreadful early shooting, missing on its first 12 field goal attempts before Tom Knight finally hits the team's first shot of the night with 10:49 on the first half clock.
Pitt would use an 8-0 run though to go up 19-3 before the Fighting Irish started to show signs of life. Pat Connaughton connected on three-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor to key a 16-3 run to close the half and pull the Irish to a 21-19 halftime deficit. The pair of important treys were the only ones ND hit in the first half and would be the only shots Connaughton hit all night.
A technical foul called on Irish head coach Mike Brey preceded the run and seemed to be the spark the Irish needed. It was just the second time he has been whistled for a technical this season.
Notre Dame was an abysmal 1-for-19 from the field with three points over the first 13 minutes of the first half, but went 5-for-8 from the floor with 16 points over the last seven minutes to close the half. The 19 points in the first 20 minutes of the game is still the second-worst first half in Brey's 13 seasons as Irish head coach. Their 17 points against UConn on March 2, 2010 remains the mark for first half futility.
It looked like the Irish might struggle again in the second half, but Eric Atkins hit a three from the left corner at the 17:18 mark for the team's first bucket of the period. Atkins, who finished with 10 points, had started 0-for-5 from the field.
Jerian Grant started 0-for-9, but hit his first basket with 15:50 to play. He followed that with a three about a minute later to make it 29-28 Irish - their first lead since it was 1-0. Despite his early struggles from the field, Grant finished with a team-high 13 points on 4-of-15 shooting from the field and 2-for-2 at the foul line. Cooley tied Grant with 13 points, while pulling down nine rebounds.
The Irish shot 6-for-14 (42%) from three-point range after going just 1-for-14 from long range in Saturday's loss to Providence. Pitt was 0-for-8 from three-point range. Notre Dame finished 18-for-47 (38%) from the field. They hit 17-of-28 (60%) after the 1-for-19 start.