NOTRE DAME, IND- Fresh off the most high-energy, high-emotion performance of the year against Syracuse, the Pittsburgh Panthers took notes from Hollywood when it came to producing a follow-up effort. “Produce a masterful first installment, fall flat on your face in the sequel.”
Pitt’s 81-88 loss to a Notre Dame team that had a total of two ACC wins coming into this contest was ugly, no sugar-coating it. The Panthers were led in scoring by Nike Sibande, Nelly Cummings, and Jamarius Burton, all with 19 on the night. With this loss, the Panthers move to 21-9 (14-5 ACC). Dominated from nearly whistle to whistle by a team so vastly inferior on paper, it was a tough one to watch. Here’s how it happened.
Final from South Bend: Pitt 81 - Notre Dame 88— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) March 2, 2023
FIRST HALF RECAP:
It was one of the ugliest halves of Pitt basketball you’ve seen all year, at just about the worst time possible. At the conclusion of the first half, Pitt was down 28-42, their play eerily reminiscent of that during the loss to Virginia Tech the last time the Panthers went on the road.
Shots refused to fall for the Panthers, going 12-34 (35%) from the field, including a horrific 3-15 from three. Those marks are less so credit to any sort of Notre Dame defense, the Irish played all right but produced nothing spectacular on the defensive end. Pitt just could not seem to hit shots to save their lives.
Blake Hinson led the Panthers in the first half with 9 points on 4-9 shooting, 1-5 from three. The lone three he did hit was followed up with an immediate technical call negating any sort of benefit, as Hinson’s choice words following his made three were deemed unsavory by the nearest official.
Beyond Hinson and some contributions from Nike Sibande, Pitt’s offense was lacking and ugly to watch. Notre Dame capitalized on the high energy in the building and produced a reciprocal performance to that of Pitt, shooting 47% (7-15) from beyond the arc. The Irish were led in scoring by Marcus Hammond with 13. Hammond was initially not even certain to be in the lineup, as he missed the last game with an injury.
As the half neared close, a Greg Elliott layup would get Pitt back within one score, down 28-31 with just under four minutes to go. From there, Notre Dame reeled off an 11-0 run heading into halftime, putting Pitt on the ropes with 20 minutes to go.
SECOND HALF RECAP:
If you hadn’t had enough of watching embarrassing Pitt basketball in the first half, boy do I have a second half for you. The Panthers continued their apathetic evening of basketball deep into the contest, only truly turning it on with around four minutes left to go in the contest.
It was ugly in all facets, but none more frustrating than Pitt’s inability to score from the free throw line. Pitt is by all means a relatively good free-throw shooting team, they’re third in the conference in FT%. Tonight? 20-36, good for 56% from the stripe. It was equally uncharacteristic as it was tough to watch.
While I’d like to avoid the route of slandering officiating, it does deserve mention this evening. Were the refs the deciding factor tonight? No. Pitt was the second-best team on the court for nearly 37 minutes of this game. However, a multitude of missed calls all seemed to come at the expense of Pitt, and a team that came into this contest with far too low of energy only saw an attitude slowly worsen as the game continued. A usually cool calm and collected Jeff Capel picked up a technical himself at one point, a sign that things were far from the norm.
Pitt would trail by as much as 20 in the second half, They’d create energy for a minute or so only to see it dissipate when defensive communication lapsed once more. Missed switches and issues guarding in open space for Pitt were key to Notre Dame’s 49% shooting from the field and 37% from three on the night.
Pitt carved ND’s lead down to five within the last minute, finding success at running straight at whoever stood underneath the basket and drawing fouls, taking advantage of the lack of bench depth for the Irish.
Six in a row by Pitt and the lead is down to 14.— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_MBB) March 2, 2023
3:58 left to play in this one. pic.twitter.com/0BBJnztc8f
You can’t fault the Irish for being excited to win in Mike Brey’s last game on home court, especially after the season they’ve had, but their approach to victory proved to rub some of the Panthers the wrong way. Blake Hinson was booed heading off the court to the locker room, a fitting end to a day that seemed as frustrating for him as any game yet this year.
WHAT COMES NEXT:
A matchup of massive implications comes this Saturday in the regular season finale as #25 Pitt and #16 Miami fight in Coral Gables for the right to the ACC regular season title, and the number one seed in the ACC conference tournament.