Dec. 27, 2011
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called his team’s victory over Pittsburgh on Tuesday night one of the most fun games he has coached since coming to South Bend.
Alex Dragicevich hit four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 22 points to lead the Fighting Irish to a 72-59 win over the No. 22 Panthers in the Big East opener for both teams.
“I have been a part of a lot of fun games here,” Brey said. “But this one ranks right up there with the best. To see us play with that swagger in the second half, I guess I just wasn’t sure this group was ready for that.”
Jerian Grant added 15 points and nine assists, and Eric Atkins also scored 15 points for the Irish (9-5, 1-0), who trailed 26-25 at intermission but missed only seven shots in the final 20 minutes of play. Notre Dame was 18 of 25 from the field after the break, including 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
The onslaught was led by Dragicevich, who scored 17 points in the second half and made all three of his long range attempts.
“It was more of a collective effort than anything,” Dragicevich said. “We all knew we needed this win and my teammates told me they were going to put me into a position to score and they did. I knocked a couple down and it was a great feeling.”
Jack Cooley pulled down 14 rebounds for Notre Dame.
The loss was Pitt’s second straight after a 59-54 loss to Wagner at home on Friday, while Notre Dame extended its home winning streak to 28 games.
Talib Zanna had 13 points and 12 rebounds for the Panthers (11-3, 0-1), who shot 40 percent from the field (24 for 60). Nasir Robinson and Ashton Gibbs each added 12 points for Pitt.
Starting guard Tray Woodall returned to the team after being sidelined nearly a month due to a groin/abdomen injury but was ineffective in 18 minutes of play, scoring no points and getting two assists while committing two turnovers.
“Tray is not where he needs to be,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. “The doctors told us to let him play about 20 minutes but there is no ideal situation to bring him back other than what we did. We didn’t know until today that he would be ready to play.”
Dragicevich, Grant and Atkins each had just five points in the first half for Notre Dame, which was out-rebounded 39-30 but made up for it with seven 3-pointers – compared to just one for Pitt on 14 attempts.
Brey said he was pleased with the second-half performances he got from his three guards, but added he isn’t satisfied.
“Now I need to ask them in practice if they can do that for 40 minutes,” he said. “Tonight we did it for 20 and now we need more.”