Jan 12, 2004
By ALAN ROBINSON
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) – 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 3-pointers in the final 2:33 – three by Chris Quinn and two by Thomas – to win despite nearly wasting a nine-point lead.
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 Panthers trailed by as many as seven points before Carl Krauser’s 3-pointer with 7:22 remaining put them back into the lead for good and started a 8-0 run that made it 59-52.
But the Irish soon started trading 3-pointers for free throws. Quinn and Thomas, setting up on opposite wings, hit two 3-pointers apiece in slightly more than a minute to cut Pitt’s lead to 67-66.
Page, fouled by Thomas as he was going up for a 3 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. 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 3-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.
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.
Maybe it helped that former Notre Dame football star Jerome Bettis was sitting at courtside, but the Irish were much more physical and aggressive than they were in losing at Pitt 72-55 a season ago.
Then, the Panthers outmuscled the Irish and Thomas never found a rhythm while being hounded by Page and was only 2-of-15 in scoring five points. He bounced back with 24 points as Notre Dame surprised the Panthers 66-64 later in the season.
This time, it was Notre Dame that was took the play to Pitt, with Torin Francis (11 points, seven rebounds) especially effective inside. Midway through the second half, Notre Dame had a 33-22 edge in rebounds, though the teams ended with 36 apiece.
All of Quinn’s 16 points came in the second half, when he made four of eight 3s. Thomas went 7-of-13 on 3s as Notre Dame was 12-of-26 from the arc to Pitt’s 5-of-16.