Things started off ugly for the Fighting Irish as their point total was stuck at only one point for the majority of the first half, as they shot 22.2% in the beginning 20 minutes. Coach Mike Brey managed to turn things around for Notre Dame after an emotional rant towards the officials resulted in a technical foul.
Brey’s technical foul seemed to fuel his team as they quickly erased a double-digit deficit, fighting back to take a double-figure lead of their own before ultimately defeating the Panthers 51-42.
Walking into Pittsburgh and leaving with a win is no easy task in Big East action, especially considering the Fighting Irish’s awful start to the contest.
The victory was a great character effort for Notre Dame, as they appeared headed for their second straight embarrassing loss, after falling to the Providence Friars 71-54 in their previous contest.
A loss in Pittsburgh certainly would have bounced the Fighting Irish from the AP’s top 25 rankings however, the team’s talented trio responded to their coach’s emotion and prevented back-to-back losses for the second time in conference action.
Jack Cooley fell just shy of his usual double-double performance with 13 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. Eric Atkins recorded 10 points, seven assists and four rebounds as he continues to show off his playmaking skills in the Big East.
Meanwhile, Jerian Grant finished with 13 points, five rebounds and two assists but struggled throughout the contest before a pair of three-pointers sent momentum in Notre Dame’s favor. Grant shot 4 for 15 from the field, nearly a third of the team’s field goal attempts. He also recorded six of the team’s 13 turnovers in the contest. Credit the Panthers’ defense for limiting Grant’s performance however, the junior will need to be better in order for the Fighting Irish to find success come tournament time.
When Grant along with Cooley and Atkins are firing on all cylinders, Notre Dame is capable of hanging with not only the best in the conference but the entire nation as well. The trio have been most responsible for their team’s 21-6 record and that will need to continue to be the case if the Fighting Irish want to have post-season success.
They are certainly more than capable of leading Notre Dame to bigger and better things, as proof by a major road victory against one of the country’s toughest defensive forces.