Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport
Things weren't looking like they could get much better. Pitt held a 15-3 lead while Notre Dame was shooting an astounding 1-18 from the field. At home a probable win was turning into a lock.
I don't typically believe that technical fouls spur teams on to victory, but you can make the argument that that's exactly what happened here. Mike Brey picked one up and Notre Dame went on a run to close the lead to three at the half. Second half? Most of us hoped Pitt would regroup. That Jamie Dixon would remind the players that despite playing terribly on offense themselves that they could turn it around.
Yeah, no such luck.
I don't know what happened to Pitt. I'd really like to think that something as insignificant as a technical foul couldn't make Pitt totally lay down and job worse than Yoshi Tatsu. But there's really no other way to explain it. Well, okay, I'll try.
Fact is that as I mentioned, Pitt didn't play well offensively. Even when Notre Dame was in the midst of a historically bad slump, the Panthers still struggled to build a lead. And as soon as the Irish hit even a few shots, the team absolutely folded.
The critical stretch for me was when Pitt had a 19-3 lead. Talib Zanna missed an ill-advised jump shot, and J.J. Moore and Cam Wright did their best Harlem Globetrotters impersonations missing back to back, ridiculous-looking layups. Those shots were sandwiched by a convenient 10-0 run that cut the lead to 19-13. Pitt just shriveled from there while Notre Dame got stronger.
As much as Notre Dame laid an egg in the first half, Pitt did the entire game. Only thing was they put up some points early on to build a lead. Don't believe me? Pitt shot 30% in the first half. When Pitt had their 15-3 lead, they were only 5-15 from the field. Fact is that the Panthers never played all that well, save on defense where they showed some intensity in the first half.
But here's the thing - it hurts to lose this game, but the season is far from over. Pitt still has four very winnable games against St. John's, Villanova, South Florida, and DePaul. Pitt should win at least three of those fairly easily and in a couple of weeks, all will be right in the world again. The other thing to remember is that Notre Dame is a ranked 20-win team and while the loss at home won't help, it won't hurt the cause all that much, either. A four- or five-seed is still very possible due to the light schedule ahead.
No, I'm not jumping off the bridge. The game doesn't prove that Jamie Dixon is a bad coach or that this is a bad team. Pitt isn't suddenly going from a high NCAA seed to the NIT. Sorry, if you want me to panic, you're in the wrong place.
But yeah, this sucks.