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Notre Dame Basketball

Pitt-stopped: Irish shred host Panthers

January 30, 2021
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Of course Notre Dame followed up one of its most atrocious offensive performances of the season with perhaps its best outing.

Paced by a quartet of players in double figures and having converted on 13 3-pointers, the Fighting Irish bludgeoned host Pittsburgh, 84-58, Saturday night inside Petersen Events Center.

It marked Notre Dame's largest margin of victory against the Panthers on the road in 22 years and was Notre Dame's most points in an ACC win since it downed Miami, 81-71, Feb. 23, 2020, inside Purcell Pavilion.

“Well, our most complete game and I'm thrilled for our group,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We've won three of four in this league (after previous wins against Boston College and Miami). We've got a chance to win four of five if we can win Tuesday at home. Things can get interesting like last year after starting off 2-6”

Off the bench and having missed the last game, Cormac Ryan alone had more 3s in this contest – five-for-six -- than the Irish (6-9, 3-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) had total in Wednesday's home loss against Virginia Tech when they finished three-for-18.

Ryan had 19 points and Prentiss Hubb had 17 as the backcourt tandem combined to drain 10 of 13 3-point shots. Hubb added nine of Notre Dame's 20 assists on 32 made field goals.

“The man can shoot the ball,” Brey said of Ryan, who finished seven-for-eight and five-for-six from deep. “I've watched this kid in practice all last year; the man has got a big-time stroke. And it was only a matter of time, and it was neat to see tonight.

“And I'm thrilled for him. Because he can score it and he's got teammates that know how to find him.”

Juwan Durham added 14 and Dane Goodwin 16, which nearly resulted in a double-double for the junior guard as he snagged nine rebounds. Nik Djogo added seven rebounds.

“I'm going to really show them that,” Brey said of Djogo's and Goodwin's impact via the glass. “We need them to help us and help our two big guys on the backboard, and that was fabulous.”

After it entered the contest on its first two-game losing skid of the season, Pitt (8-5, 4-4 ACC) exited with its first three-game losing streak since it closed the 2019-20 regular season with seven-straight defeats.

The Irish constructed a 12-point halftime lead despite again having been dominated on the boards, where Pitt held a 23-15 edge on rebounds that included 10 offensive boards.

Notre Dame connected on six of 12 first-half 3-point attempts and hit 17-for-30 from the field – a blistering 56.7%.

Durham had 10 points, an assist and zero turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

The Irish likely would have held an even more commanding halftime edge had they not given up 11 second-chance points to Pitt, which also saw star Justin Champagnie score 15 of the team's 29 first-half points. Champagnie had just four points in the second half to finish with 19.

Still, Notre Dame outrebounded the Panthers 22-17 in the second half. Pitt also shot a paltry 23-for-73 from the field and just eight-for-26 from 3-point range. The Irish’s 9-0 burst out the intermission effectively secured their second ACC road win in six days.

“Just more aggressiveness,” Durham said of the Irish mindset, particularly on defense. “We do the compete drill in practice, so we just got to tell ourselves it's compete drill and it's down to who wants it more. We just have to go out there and show that we want it more. …

“We told ourselves we've been here before, don't get too happy. We like to come out thinking that we're down 10 or it's zero-zero. We were just trying to repeat to ourselves that we've been here before and we can't just let up.”

No letup ever so much as threatened to surface. The Irish led by as many as 29 points, 82-53, and they also for more than 33 minutes in the game – including the final 30:54 after Durham's dunk lifted them to an 21-20 edge.

Notre Dame returns home for an early-evening tilt Tuesday against Wake Forest and first-year coach Steve Forbes. The Demon Deacons throttled Miami, 66-54, Saturday in a game in which their bench outscored Miami's reserves, 32-0.

 
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