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 Jackson's hustle keyed ND's huge rally late in the game
Real bummer of a Pitt game, as they played great for the first 30-some minutes, only to completely fall apart with 5 minutes to go in a 82-70 loss at #21 Notre Dame. Pitt looked in control, ready to end ND's big home streak (Pitt was up double digits twice in the middle of the 2nd half), but the Irish closed out the game on a 21-10 run.
I'm really too frustrated with this loss to give you a detailed recap of the ballgame. Like I said, I was very impressed with Pitt's play for the first 33 minutes of the game. They held an 11 point lead over the Irish and were in cruise control. Although Harangody was scoring, Blair had him frustrated with his patented charge-taking skills. Benjamin was red-hot from outside. Sam Young was scoring at will. Pitt looked ready to take home a signature road win and virtually lock up an NCAA berth, getting back into the fight on the Big East and national scene. Instead, Pitt self-destructed in the final few minutes, and was outscored, 42-19 to end the game. Give Notre Dame credit, as they nailed insanely deep three-balls, and Tory Jackson (the point guard) played his heart out, grabbing 13 boards (he's 5-10!). Still, Pitt fueled the fire by turning the ball over three times in one minute, missing an easy dunk, and taking low-percentage shots. Many fans are also blaming the loss on Ronald Ramon's 0-8 night shooting, and the teams pathetic performance at the foul line (11-18).
Pitt is now tied for 7th in the Big East and will remain unranked regardless of what happens Sunday vs. #23 Louisville. I still have confidence in the Panthers though. They played great basketball for most of the game against a very good team in a tough place to win. Fields is back and Pitt always seems to hit a wall in February and get hot for the Big East Tourney. This year, let's hope they are just prolonging that a bit, so we can get some momentum going into the NCAA's. I like the Panthers to beat Louisville on Sunday, Cincy after that, and win two out of their last three. That should be enough to get into the Dance regardless of what happens in NYC (where Pitt always plays well). I still like what I'm seeing from this club, they just need to avoid the collapse at the end of the game. Marquette was a 3/4-game long collapse. ND was only a 1/4-game long collapse. It's an improvement, and I think Pitt will put it together and get hot. They always seem to at this time of year, and they are definitely still close (if they weren't close, they'd be getting blown out). If Louisville is a repeat of this game, then I'll start to worry. But this is the first time all year Pitt has lost 2 in a row and I think they won't let that last, especially on its home floor. The Panthers will be ready come Sunday.
Duquesne was crushed at #10 Xavier, 75-48. The Pens did hold on to win..but more on that later.