The Notre Dame Fighting Irish opened ACC play against the Pittsburgh Panthers Saturday afternoon, beating them in over time 78-77 and improving to 12-2 to start the New Year.
Notre Dame had previously lost the last three meetings with the Panthers, losing by four points the last two seasons.
Saturday’s matchup was held in Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Centre, one of the most difficult places to play in college basketball. Theledgesports.com listed the top 15 most hostile environments, with Peterson Events Centre coming in at number 8.
Teams playing in the Peterson Events Centre must be ready to not only take on the Panthers, but the student section known as “The Oakland Zoo”.
Notre Dame is no stranger to playing in loud, tough environments as a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, arguably the toughest arena to play in, occurs annually.
This was a game that the Irish needed to win, not because of their three game losing streak to the Panthers, but to give them confidence as they enter the gauntlet that is the ACC. If history had any indication, this game was going to come down to the wire; and it did.
The Irish had a tough task at hand containing Pittsburgh’s top big man, Michael Young, who is averaging 22.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, and three assists per game.
Notre Dame trailed the Panthers for most of the first half, with their largest lead being 11 points off a Michael Young three pointer coming in at just over 11 minutes left until half. The Irish responded with a 10-0 run, tying the game at 29 with just under four minutes left in the first half.
With the score at 29 each, Michael Young quickly responded with a jumper, in which Notre Dame guard Steve Vasturia answered with a three pointer, to give the Irish their first lead of the game.
With three minutes left in the half and the Irish up 34-31, the Panthers would go on a 5-0 run to end the first half up by two.
The second half was closer than the first with the Irish and the Panthers exchanging leads fluidly.
Notre Dame would get hot and go on an 11-0 run with over 10 minutes left, capped off by a layup by freshman Temple Gibbs to put the Irish up by eight, their largest lead of the game.
The Panthers would answer, going on a 10-0 run themselves in hopes to put the game out of reach from the Irish.
However Steve Vasturia would get fouled and make both free throws, tying the game at 68 and sending the game into over time.
Steve Vasturia was not done being a hero yet. Vasturia would score eight of Notre Dame’s 10 over time points, including the game winning three pointer that put the Irish up by one with two seconds left. The senior captain would finish the day with 15 points and five assists.
Notre Dame would go onto win 78-77 and open league play 1-0.
Bonzie Colson led the Irish in scoring, recording yet another double-double, dropping 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.
Martinas Geben had himself a day, falling one rebound short of his first double-double of his career. Geben finished the day with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Matt Farrell did his part in Saturday’s victory, scoring 16 points, grabbing five boards and dishing out three assists, with one of those assists coming off a pass to Vasturia that led to the game winning three pointer.
VJ Beachem was quiet in Pittsburgh as he only recorded six points and went 3-10 from the field.
The Irish will open the doors to the #6 Louisville Cardinals on Wednesday January 4th at 9 PM EST.