It was bound to happen at some point, right?
After an ugly loss to Virginia Tech, Pitt shocked pretty much everybody, finally putting together a complete game to take down No. 8 Notre Dame at home, 76-72.
While the win was surprising, as I wrote a while back when looking at the team's NCAA hopes, I don't know that these kinds of victories should ever be completely unexpected. Even in years when Pitt has been a little down, they still manage to knock off heavyweights at home. The Panthers aren't a great team this season as evidenced by some of the team's losses. But they proved what they can do when the players show up and they get to play at home.
Plus, as I pointed out to a reader the other day in the comments section of another article, conference road games are just difficult, no matter the opponent. Pitt is down this year, but a weaker team beating a very good one on the road, isn't a surprise at all. We (and practically everyone else, I'm guessing) didn't pick the Panthers to win. But these kinds of games just happen.
Pitt didn't completely shut down Notre Dame's three-point shooting (a big point of concern, as I mentioned in the brief gamethread preview), but the Irish were a modest 7-18 from that range, and that's acceptable. The biggest thing for the Panthers is that they just got big games in terms of shooting the ball from practically everyone. Jamel Artis was 8-14 from the field. Michael Young was 7-10. Cam Wright and James Robinson were 12-17. The Panthers' bench was pretty much non-existent, but when those starters are playing that well, Pitt can still win games.
James Robinson came up big at the end and, ironically, it was after he could have come up as the goat. With Pitt up by one late, Robinson missed the front end of a one and one at the free throw line and Notre Dame came down and hit two free throws of their own. Trailing by one, Robinson came down with a driving layup in the lane and made the bucket for the win. And his ten assists to a single turnover should be noted as well.
Robinson's taken a lot of heat (from people including me, by the way) - and deservedly so. He's shot the ball horribly this year and has really struggled to be the offensive player the Panthers have needed. But these are the reasons he plays - he's capable of making big shots at the end.
This, of course, doesn't turn Pitt's season around completely. The Panthers still have all kinds of work to do if they want to get into the NCAA Tournament and one game doesn't change that. But if anything, it should give you another reason to continue to stick with the team to see what else they can do. This is hopefully the kind of confidence they need to keep going.
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