Pitt didn't make it look easy, but when was the last time they did that (Clemson)? Instead, the Panthers found themselves down early against Notre Dame, but were able to prevail in South Bend, 85 - 81, in OT.
The first two minutes were pretty good for Pitt; they led 4 - 2 at the 18:25 mark. Then junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton got inferno-hot like in NBA Jam. His two early triples helped power the Fighting Irish to a 28 - 16 advantage by the under-8 media timeout. Junior guard Cameron Wright decided enough was enough, and his aggressiveness on the offensive end sparked a 6-0 run that got the Panthers back into the game.
Connaughton drilled a contested triple with just 14 seconds left in the half, but freshman point guard Josh Newkirk hit a three-pointer in transition to end the half, but Pitt still trailed, 39 - 35.
Despite trailing, there were encouraging signs that they would be able to bounce back: they held a 12-0 advantage on the offensive glass, and ND shot a blistering 7-9 from beyond the arc - not sustainable.
Wright still had the hot hand early in the second half; his layup in transition, which he was also fouled on, gave the Panthers the lead for the first time in over 20 minutes, 43 - 41. The second Newkirk triple of the game, put Pitt up 51 - 45 at the 14:59 mark.
Notre Dame didn't fold; they got into the bonus at the 8:12 mark, which brought them within one-point of the Panthers, 57 - 56. It didn't help that Pitt didn't make a field goal from the 11:21 mark until the 7:57 mark. To their credit, the Panthers regained their focus, and a layup by Wright off a pretty pass by senior forward Lamar Patterson gave Pitt a seven-point lead - their largest of the game.
A 6-0 run by Notre Dame, coupled with turnovers and missed shots by the Panthers, helped them get within one-point once again. A huge tip-in by freshman forward Michael Young off a Patterson miss gave Pitt a 65 - 62 advantage, which seemed to be the nail in the coffin.
But the luck of the Irish wasn't finished.
A ND stroke from downtown evened things out with less than 10 seconds left, leaving the Panthers with a little clock to work with. But even a controversial timeout and fadeaway jumper from sophomore point guard James Robinson wouldn't prevail, giving the longtime rivals five more minutes to pick a winner.
In overtime, Pitt played a back-and-forth battle with the Irish for pretty much the entire period of play. In the end, a three-point Panthers' lead resulted in a foul game for Notre Dame, which didn't work out as Pitt took this one, 85 - 81.
Pitt edged-out a much needed road victory, which should quiet a majority of the speculation about their invitation to the 'big dance'. Top scorers for the away team were Patterson with 20, senior forward Talib Zanna with 17, and Wright with 15. Young also contributed 13 points.
With two games to go, the Panthers will next return home to face North Carolina State (17-12, 7-9) in what will also be Patterson and Zanna's final appearance on the Petersen Events Center floor.