Archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Pitt slips past Irish

January 13, 2004

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— Notre Dame finally found a streak it couldn't stop.

Julius Page and Jaron Brown led a second-half comeback, and No. 13 Pittsburgh shook off Chris Thomas' 29 points and Notre Dame's strong outside shooting for a 74-71 victory Monday night.

Brown scored 19 points and Page had 18, all but three after halftime, as the unbeaten Panthers (17-0, 3-0 in Big East) got their second scare in as many games before winning their 36th consecutive home game.

Pitt, coming off an 84-80, double-overtime decision at Miami, withstood five Irish three-pointers in the final 2:33 -- three by Chris Quinn and two by Thomas -- to win despite nearly wasting a nine-point lead.

"We found a way to respond, even after they starting hitting those threes," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "It's a testament to our guys' will power. We played a two-overtime game and then had a delayed flight, and I was concerned about our guys' emotions and our legs."

Pitt's last home loss came exactly two years ago Monday -- 56-53 to Notre Dame, when the Panthers still played in Fitzgerald Field House. They have won 30 straight since moving into the Petersen Events Center last season.

The Fighting Irish (8-4, 2-1) talked beforehand of repeating that victory and stopping the nation's longest home-court winning streak. Last week, they read in the pregame notes that West Virginia's Drew Schifino had 48 consecutive double-figure scoring games and stopped that streak by holding him to nine points.

Saturday, they halted an eight-game conference losing streak to Villanova, causing Torrian Jones to start referring to the Irish as streak breakers.

"I wish I could tell every team in the Big East so they could beat them," Thomas said when asked the secret to handling Pitt.

Still, the Panthers trailed by as many as seven points before Carl Krauser's three-pointer with 7:22 left put them back into the lead for good and started a 8-0 run that made it 59-52.

Pitt later built the lead to 63-54, but the Irish soon started trading three-pointers for free throws. Quinn and Thomas, setting up on opposite wings, hit two three-pointers apiece in slightly more than a minute to cut it to 67-66.

"They played very well," Page said. "They hit a lot of threes, a lot of tough shots."

Page, fouled by Thomas as he was going up for a three with 51 seconds to go, then hit only one of three free throws, but the Panthers rebounded and Page made one of two free throws.

"I was trying to challenge the shot. It's on their home court, where they're 16-0 with a 35-game winning streak," Thomas said. "I guess they're going to get calls like that."

The next time down, freshman Chris Taft made two more foul shots to make it 71-66. Taft finished with 10 points and nine rebounds.

After one more three-pointer by Quinn, Chevon Troutman was fouled inside and made both free throws to push the lead to 73-69. Thomas then turned the ball over when he couldn't find an open shot, and Brown hit a free throw to effectively seal it.

"We always find a way to win," Krauser said.

"We wanted to keep the streak. We wanted to win the game more."

Pitt, 14-0 at home this season, won despite making only 11 of 22 free throws. Notre Dame, which began the game as the nation's second-best foul-shooting team, was only 3-of-8.

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