The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team sent head coach Mike Brey out on a high note at home Wednesday night, upsetting the 25th-ranked Pittsburgh Panthers — 1st place in the ACC heading into the game — by a final score of 88 to 81 on Senior Night at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish were led on the night by Marcus Hammond and Cormac Ryan, who both scored 20 points to lead the Irish in their upset of the Panthers.
Hammond shot a scorching-hot 8-of-11 from the floor (4-for-6 from deep) and grabbed 3 rebounds, while Ryan managed 4 rebounds and 4 assists along with his great scoring night.
Trey Wertz had a really nice game as well, scoring 14 points and grabbing 7 rebounds while also dishing out 5 assists. Nate Laszewski chipped in 14 points and 8 rebounds, and Dane Goodwin and Ven-Allen Lubin combined for 20 points and 11 rebounds before they both fouled out late in the second half.
As a team, Notre Dame shot 49% from the field and 37% from long range (10-for-27) for the game. They lost the rebounding battle 40 to 33, but managed to out-perform Pitt at the free throw line, where they made 26-of-31 attempts while Jeff Capel’s squad shot an abysmal 20-for-36.
The Panthers were paced in scoring by Jamarius Burton (19 points, 8 rebounds), Nelly Cummings (19 points, 2-4 shooting from 3-point range), and Nike Sabinde (19 points, 4 rebounds), and Blake Hinson (15 points, 13 rebounds) put together a nice double-double effort down low in the losing effort. Pitt shot 44% from the floor and 32% from three-point range.
The game began pretty competitively, with the two teams trading leads for the first 7 minutes. ND managed to take a slim lead and maintain it for the next 8 minutes or so, but the Panthers continued to hang around and take advantage of their advantage on the glass to stay within striking distance.
A 14-2 run by the Irish just before the half helped Brey’s team grab a 42-28 advantage entering the half, though, fueled by their 7-of-15 shooting performance from beyond the arc in the period.
In the second half, it went back and forth for the first few minutes, with the two teams trading blows offensively. Pittsburgh managed to get within 12 points a little before the under-16 media timeout, but a Hammond three and a steal/dunk from Ryan helped push the ND lead back to 17.
The Irish extended their lead to 20 after a Jeff Capel technical foul, but then Pitt made another little run to cut the deficit back down to 14.
Wertz knocked down a big three to put Notre Dame back up by 17 with 9 minutes to play, though, and for the next 4-5 minutes the Irish held onto a 14-18 point lead.
Goodwin and Lubin fouling out late in the half, though, really squeezed the Irish’s already limited rotation (J.J. Starling and Dom Campbell both were unable to play), and Pitt began to chip away at the ND lead once again. They cut it down to 10 with about a minute to go, and then in that final minute they managed to stretch the game out substantially with some well-timed three-pointers, steals, etc.
Burton knocked down a three with 38 seconds to go to make it 84-79 and really scare the Irish faithful, but Wertz stepped up and knocked down two free throws on the other end, and after Pitt missed a three and then a layup, Ryan got an open dunk in transition to ice the game, giving us the final score of 88-81.
With the victory, the Irish improved to 11-19 on the season (3-16 ACC). They will play next on Saturday, 3/4 at 8 PM ET, when they’ll travel to Clemson to take on the Tigers in the season finale.