Notre Dame Battles Back, Beats Pitt 51-42

Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Jack Cooley (45) is tied up by Pittsburgh Panthers forward Dante Taylor (left) and forward J.J. Moore (right) during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. (Photo -Charles LeClaire / USA TODAY Sports)

Notre Dame’s men’s basketball team improved to 4-1 on the season against ranked teams on Monday night with a 51-42 victory over the 20th ranked Pitt Panthers on the road.  The Irish took down the Panthers despite starting the game on the wrong end of a 19-3 Pitt run.

Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant paced the Irish with 13 points a piece as Notre Dame rebounded from a rough loss to a weak Providence team over the weekend.  Speaking of rebounding, the Irish were able to win their 4th game of the year vs. a ranked opponent by out rebounding Pittsburgh 36-22 including a 10-3 edge on the offensive glass.

That offensive rebounding advantage was thanks in large part to a horrific start to the game in which Notre Dame missed 18 of their first 19 shots while Pitt built their 19-3 lead.

Back to back three’s from Pat Connaughton around the six minute mark in the first half sparked a 16-3 Notre Dame run and set up the Irish nicely for a second half in which they outsourced Pitt 32-20 and ended up coasting to a rather comfortable victory.

Monday’s night win has Notre Dame a half game back of Louisville for 4th place in the Big East – a distinction that is important since the top 4 teams in the Big East receive a first round by in the Big East Tournament.  The Irish are also just 1 game back of first place in the conference – equal with Georgetown, Marquette, Syracuse, and Louisville with 9 conference wins, but two games back in the loss column.

Notre Dame now has off until Sunday when the Irish will host Cincinnati at Purcell Pavilion.  The Bearcats are 19-7 overall right now with a 7-6 conference mark after losing to Georgetown on Friday.  Cincy will have to travel to Storrs on Thursday as well to take on UConn before heading to South Bend for Sunday’s tilt which will be broadcast by CBS at 2:00 PM ET.

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