Trailing by as many as seven late in the first half, Mike Brey's No. 15 ranked Irish rallied to upend second-ranked Pittsburgh, 56-51, at the Petersen Events Center Monday night.
Key to the Irish upset was Brey's strategic Burn offense – the same tactic that helped bleed the clock and propel a short-handed Notre Dame team to the NCAA Tournament was a late season run last year.
At the controls of the Burn was a sublime late-game effort by Hansbrough, who scored eight of the visitor's last nine points over the final 4:33, thereby doubling the Panthers point total over the same span to earn Notre Dame its first road victory of the season, and just its fourth over the last 13 true road contests dating back to January 2010.
Hansbrough played the hero role 48 hours earlier as well, scoring a career-high 28 in a comeback win over Marquette in South Bend.
The Irish trailed for the bulk of the contest, consistently nipping at the Panthers heels but failing to gain control until a Hansbrough three-point shot gave Brey's crew a 42-41 lead with just over 8:30 remaining. Notre Dame had previously led 8-5 with less than five minutes elapsed from the contest.
Pittsburgh led by five, 36-31 with 12 minutes remaining but the Irish embarked on a 15-5 run over the next five minutes to take a 46-41 lead. 13 of those 15 points came courtesy Hansbrough buckets or assists as well as a crushing Carleton Scott four-point play at the 7:13 mark that gave the Irish their largest lead of the contest.
The Panthers managed to cut the deficit to one, 46-45 before Hansbrough's aforementioned heroics buried the home team – previously victors in 20 straight conference contests at the Pete. The senior's final blow, a driving layup down the right side extended Notre Dame's lead to 56-51 with just 0:19 remaining. Ashton Gibbs' ensuing three-point shot was off the mark and the Irish had secured their third consecutive win over the Panthers in 11 months.
Hansbrough scored 15 of his game-high 19 points in the second half; his three second stanza assists led to eight more points for the previously road weary Irish.
Hanging aroundKeeping Notre Dame in the contest early was senior Scott Martin (9 points on three shots from beyond the arc) and Scott, who knocked down consecutive triples in a 45 second span to knot the score at 31, the first draw since the teams stood at 8-8 with more than 13 minutes remaining in the first half.
Buoyed by a 5-6 effort from long range, Scott finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds while Martin added 10 albeit on 10 shots. Classmate Tim Abromaitis was held to two free throws without an official field goal attempt in 29 minutes.
It was Notre Dame's first true road win over a Top 5 foe since January 5, 2000 at #2 Connecticut. The game marked the second upset of a second-ranked team outside of South Bend for Brey's Irish, who had previously defeated #2 Texas in December 2002.
The Irish have defeated three Top 10 teams since opening conference play on December 29 vs. then #9 Georgetown.
The Panthers were led by Gilbert Brown with 13 points and six boards while Brad Wanamaker chipped in 12. Pittsburgh hit five of 10 three-point shots prior to intermission but just one of five in the second stanza. The Irish knocked down 9 of 18 three-point offerings on the evening; Brey's group connected on just six of 31 in back-to-back road defeats last week.
Pittsburgh missed seven of 16 free throw attempts to offset a 29-23 rebounding edge including 12 on the offensive glass. The Irish attempted just 13 free throws, their lowest number in 17 victories this season.
Notre Dame's next game is Thursday, February 3 at winless conference foe DePaul.
Note: IrishEyes will have more on tonight's contest in its Personnel Points column Tuesday morning.