The Irish scoring picked up along with their defensive efforts and took a 27-17 lead with a little over six minutes to go in the half. However, Pitt would not go away and cut the lead to six at halftime, 32-26.
About mid-way in the first half the Irish were hit with bad luck as Torin Francis had to leave the game due to back spasms and spent the remainder of the game on the bench. At the time of his departure, he had scored four points and grabbed four rebounds, plus he was a force on defense.
Coach Mike Brey said he is very concerned about Francis, "He had a little tightness yesterday but must have done something early," said Brey. "This was disappointing as he was off to a pretty good start as he had four rebounds, scored, and was in a pretty good rhythm." As to whether Francis will be able to play Monday he said, "It is really questionable right now. I hope we can get him back but we'd better be prepared to play without him."
Chris Thomas had 11 points in the first half with Torrian Jones and Jordan Cornette each contributing five each. Cornette also hauled down six rebounds. Chris Quinn did not score in the opening stanza, and the Irish did not get to the foul line in this period.
The second half opened with the roles reversed as Pitt outscored Notre Dame 9-2 in the first three minutes and took the lead at 35-34. A minute later the Irish took a one-point lead but Pitt came right back and went ahead by one with sixteen minutes remaining. This was a lead that they never gave up and built to ten, 51-41, with just under eight minutes left.
The Irish were not ready to surrender and pulled within four, 52-56, with three minutes to go but the Panthers did not lose their poise even when the lead was down to three with fifty-eight seconds left. The Irish were only down by four with fourteen seconds to go but had to foul in order to get the ball back, and Pitt converted the shots resulting in the final score of 66-58.
Pitt made some changes defensively and offensively at halftime which put them back in the game and provided them with the win. Their best effort was shutting down Chris Quinn. Quinn had a career high 25 points in his last outing. Tonight he totaled three points, all of which came from the foul line.
The Irish were led in scoring by Chris Thomas with 23 and Torrian Jones getting 12. Tom Timmermans had a solid game as did Jordan Cornette. Timmermans had eight points, six rebounds, and made his presence known under both baskets. Cornette led the team in rebounding with nine.
For the game Notre Dame shot 38.2 percent from the field. From three-point range they ended with 34.8 percent and from the foul line 61.5 percent.
The Irish played hard tonight and Coach Brey said, "We're disappointed, but I'm proud of my group. We dug and fought and tried our darnedest against a very, very good basketball team that is old and poised. I think you have to give them credit as they are very good defensive team. This nucleus of kids has always defended well. We didn't have a rhythm offensively, and I think a lot of it is Pittsburgh and a different guy in the post for us most of the game. I thought Tom and Jordan gave us everything they had."
Chris Thomas and Chris Quinn are both capable of having big games and coach Brey says, "We really need to have those two guys playing well together for us to have success in this league, and we haven't had that much. It's one or the other, but we need them both playing well. They both are playing extended minutes, and they will play 36-38 minutes on Monday. They are the key to us. They can handle the ball and break people down off the dribble."
The absence of Francis was a factor in this game but Torrian Jones was not about to use this as a reason for the loss. "We gave it everything we had but tonight they were able to get it done and we weren't. I can't use the loss of Torin as an excuse. We had guys like Tom and Rick step in and make big plays. We would have loved to have him but that is definitely not an excuse for what happened tonight. We adjusted our game plan and played around it."
The Irish now stand 10-9 overall and 4-5 in the Big East, and the task does not get any easier as the No. 5 UConn Huskies come to the Joyce Center Monday night. The Huskies are the only team to defeat Pittsburgh so far this season.