Pitt took on Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend on Saturday in its regular-season finale, and on the line was an opportunity to move up in rank to 11th in the ACC with a win. However, an outgunned Panthers team weary from a tough season and a three-game losing streak would come out flat and fail to recover, falling to the Fighting Irish 78-54.
The Panthers got off to an abysmal start, as John Hugley was whistled for two fouls in a span of six seconds and benched before three minutes had elapsed. That deprived Pitt of its top scorer, and with Noah Collier playing in his stead, Hugley was sorely missed, as Pitt was only able to muster 10 points in the first 12 minutes of the game. Notre Dame did not fare much better early on, as the score was 17-10 at that point. However, the Irish would finish the first half strong, scoring 14 points in the last eight minutes. And with the Panthers only able to add seven to their total in that span, they would head into the break down 31-21.
Hugley would return in the second half, but with a 10-point hole to dig out of and the Irish still in a rhythm, Pitt would still find itself insufficiently equipped to mount a comeback. For his part, Hugley looked determined upon his return, as has often been the case early in the second halves of Pitt games of late. However, the six points Hugley contributed in the first five minutes did little to offset Notre Dame’s efforts, as Cormac Ryan hit three threes and helped the Irish shoot out to a 49-27 lead.
By the midway point of the second half, the Irish would still maintain a 19-point lead, with the score 58-39. From that point on, the likes of Nate Laszewski and Dane Goodwin would keep the Panthers at arm’s length. And with just under five minutes to go, a Paul Atkinson dunk would make it 69-48, Notre Dame. The Irish would then coast to a 78-54 victory.
John Hugley and Mouhamadou Gueye led Pitt in scoring in the loss, with both contributing 13 points. The feat was especially impressive for Hugley, as he played just 14 minutes while Gueye played 30. With that said, Gueye also had a team-high eight rebounds in the game, while Hugley had a relatively low three. Pitt also got a rare 11-point showing from its bench players, but with key contributors Jamarius Burton, Ithiel Horton and Femi Odukale all held to six points or fewer, it didn’t matter.
With the loss, Pitt closed out the regular season with an 11-20 record and a 6-14 mark in the ACC. As for the Irish, they improved to 22-9 overall and 15-5 in conference play. Those records and the lopsided result exhibit the stark difference in paths the two teams took after their first meeting on Dec. 28, when a 6-5 Notre Dame team edged out a 5-7 Pitt team 68-67. Now, with the regular season in the books, the team will prepare for the ACC tournament, which will get underway from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday.