Men’s basketball: Pitt unlucky against Notre Dame, lose in quarterfinals of Big East tournament

By Jay Huerbin

NEW YORK CITY — It must have felt like déjà vu for the No. 2 seeded… NEW YORK CITY — It must have felt like déjà vu for the No. 2 seeded Pittsburgh Panthers.

One year after losing their first game in the Big East tournament — then as the top seed — the Panthers failed to advance out of the quarterfinals matchup, losing to Notre Dame 50-45 tonight. It was the second fewest points scored by Pitt in the tournament since its championship game loss to Georgetown in 2007.

The Fighting Irish, playing in their second consecutive game after earning a one-round bye as the seventh seed, played a patient, low possession game against Pitt.

But what worked for the Irish, didn’t work for the Panthers. In a game of crucial possessions, Pitt couldn’t deliver, especially when they needed to at the end of the game.

Still, head coach Jamie Dixon didn’t consider Notre Dame’s gameplan frustrating, just different.

“You have to be prepared and understand what they’re doing,” he said. “You know it’s going to be low scoring. You know it’s going to be a low-possession game. You know it’s going to be a close game. It was those few possessions…We were in a position to win the game, so I don’t say we were frustrated at all.”

Junior Brad Wanamaker echoed his coach’s thoughts, saying the team did a good job but failed to make the necessary shots tow in the game. Wanamaker, who shot 5-of-11 from the field and converting all five of his free throw attempts, was the Panthers leading scorer with 16 points.

“We missed some layups we should have made,” Wanamaker said.

The Panthers held their only lead of the game a little more than two minutes into the game before the Irish went on a nearly four-minute, eight-point run to separate the teams early in the game. Pitt tied the game at 27-27 later in the first half, but never controlled the game.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey attributed his team’s win to their ability to counter Pitt’s defense with a strong defense late in the game.

I thought we really defended the last seven minutes to win the game because they defended us,” he said. “We couldn’t get much offensively, so it was going to be us defensively to win. And I though we were fabulous on that end of the floor.”

The best chance for the Panthers to take a lead in the second half came with a little more than a minute remaining. Trailing the Irish 47-45, the Panthers forced Notre Dame forward Luke Harangody into a tough position as Harangody was called for a travel.

Harangody, who missed five consecutive games at the end of this season, gave the Panthers the ball with a chance to make a last minute comeback. It wasn’t how the senior planned to end the game.

“I didn’t put my head down,” Harangody said of the travel call. “I said, ‘I’m going to make this up to my team.’”

And he did make it up.

Both Wanamaker and Dixon missed last-second layups and Gilbert Brown was forced to foul Harangody — he converted both free throws and sealed the Notre Dame upset.

The Irish will play the winner of the Cincinnati-West Virginia quarterfinal, while the Panthers await their placement in the NCAA Tournament, which is set to begin next weekend.

Notes: Pitt’s loss was the sixth by a No. 2 seed in its first Big East tournament game…The Panthers shot 45.8 percent from the field in the first half, but only 30 percent in the second…The Notre Dame bench outscored the Pitt bench, 12-7.