Early on in Saturday’s showdown between Notre Dame and Pitt, the Irish had a couple of things going for them. The Irish got Panthers big man Carlton Carrington into some early foul trouble, sending him to the bench with two fouls less than 10 minutes into the night. They also forced Pitt into missing its first nine three-pointers, allowing the Irish to jump out to an early 19-12 lead.
However, the Panthers found a way to adjust. Carrington did foul out with 3:05 to play, but by that point, the Panthers had built up a 15-point lead. While on the floor, Carrington still put 16 points. Pitt’s three-point shooting recovered, as the Panthers sunk 10 of their final 16 attempts from beyond the arc for an overall 40% clip. The Irish shot just 26% on their shots from deep. It all added up to a 70-60 win for Pitt at home, extending Notre Dame’s losing streak to a season-high six games.
“They moved some pieces and moved some parts. They did a good job of finding those guys [who] would pass this kick across and pick and roll and and everything else, so credit to their guards and the unselfishness they played,” said Irish head coach Micah Shrewsberry about the Panthers.
After taking that early edge, Pitt closed the first half on a 16-3 run to go into the locker room up by six points. A pair of threes from Carrington were key in that run, with Blake Hinson hitting a pair of jumpers for the final buckets of the half. To their credit, Notre Dame came out of the break strong, knotting the score back up at 30 in large part due to a quick six-point burst by freshman guard Markus Burton.
“[He’s] just trying to take what the defense gives him,” Shrewsberry said of Burton, who finished with a team-high 17 points. “You know he’s on the top of everybody’s scouting report. He’s attacking and he’s playing through physicalities, getting to the free throw line … three assists, no turnovers is great growth from him.”
However, the Panthers weren’t fazed by that early Irish run. The Panthers immediately followed that stretch with nine consecutive points of their own. Burton made a layup to stop the run only for Pitt to go off for 10 more points in a row. The Irish never got within single digits the rest of the way as frustration boiled over, culminating with a technical foul on the Irish coach that nearly escalated to a full ejection.
“I just thought the guy got fouled,” Shrewsberry said, referring to the call that lead to the foul.
Sophomore forward Tae Davis was one of the bright spots for the Irish. He finished the night with 16 points on an efficient 6-8 shooting night while hauling in four rebounds. Shrewsberry was pleased with his work on both ends of the floor.
“Davis and Julian Roper did a good job of chasing them off screens and trying to be there on the catch. And we tried to double [Carrington] when he had some mismatches and some advantages. So just trying to make him pass as much as possible,” Shrewsberry said.
Ultimately, though, the Irish couldn’t do enough to hang with Pitt for a full 40 minutes. The Panthers out-rebounded Notre Dame 33-28 and shot 5% better than the Irish from the field and about 14% better on threes. The effort was there, but the Irish couldn’t execute at a high-enough level to pull out a victory.
“We competed. It’s hard,” Shrewsberry said. “It’s hard to slow this team down when they get hot in certain moments. And we’ve been a good defensive team for the whole season but we haven’t been the last three to four games.”
The Irish will look to bounce back on Feb. 7 against Duke. The Blue Devils beat the Irish at Purcell Pavilion 67-59. This time, though, the Irish will have to try to quiet the Cameron Crazies. The game tips off at nine p.m.