Notre Dame found out how quickly 20 minutes of hard work can be erased in the Big East on Saturday.
The Irish built up a solid, albeit far from comfortable, lead in the first half at Pittsburgh, but the Panthers wiped it out in less than 60 seconds and went on to win 93-80.
The win improved the Panthers to 19-2 overall and 7-2 in the Big East while the loss was Notre Dame's fifth straight and dropped the Irish to 12-8 overall and just 3-6 in the conference.
Notre Dame played well to earn its 45-39 halftime lead, but Pittsburgh scored six points in the first 36 seconds of the second half to tie the game and opened the half on a 10-0 run to grab a 49-45 lead.
Notre Dame trailed 51-49 with 16:38 left, but the Panthers went on a 10-2 run and the Irish never got within eight the rest of the way.
"I'm really glad how we started, I hope we can start games like that," Irish head coach Mike Brey told the Notre Dame Radio Network afterward. "As good as the start of the first half was, the second half was a nightmare."
Luke Harangody led Notre Dame with 27 points and 11 rebounds. Luke Zeller added 18 points for the Irish, but all 18 came in the first half and Zeller managed just one field goal attempt in the second half. Zach Hillesland and Ryan Ayers did not start for the second straight game, but came off the bench to score 12 and 10 points respectively.
Brey hopes to see Zeller use this game going forward.
"You want to build on some of that even though he's a senior. You certainly want to build on that. He got looks, he got us going," Brey said. "I also think Ryan Ayers is back in a little bit of rhythm again. Those are things you've got to build on."
DeJuan Blair led Pittsburgh with 23 points and a career-high 22 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards. Led by Blair, the Panthers outrebounded the Irish 49-30.
"They really beat us up on the backboard in the second half. Second shots, which you're afraid of with this group really killed us," Brey said.
Notre Dame's next chance to end the losing streak comes on Wednesday when the Irish travel to Cincinnati.
"For us you can't look at February or March. You're looking to try and win a league game," Brey said. "We haven't really done that in awhile, it's been a long time since the Seton Hall game."
Brey expects to see his players be loose in the situation that they find themselves in.
"There's really nothing to lose, we're off everybody's radar. Nobody is going to talk about us in February, so what are you uptight about?" he said. "Just play, I mean you're not even in the discussion for anything, which is deserved and a good thing probably for this group."
The Irish shot 50% from beyond the arc in the first half (11-for-22), but only took five three-pointers in the second half, making just one, and four of those attempts came in the final two and a half minutes.
The Irish started fast and were able to maintain a solid lead for most of the first half and respond to every Pittsburgh run even with Harangody and McAlarney struggling on offense.
Brey used the same starting lineup that he did against Marquette earlier in the week and it paid off as both Zeller and Ayers got off to quick starts.
Zeller gave the Irish an early scoring burst, knocking down his first four three-pointers as Notre Dame jumped out to a 17-8 lead five minutes into the game.
The Irish led by as many as 10 in the first half, but an 11-3 run by the Panthers cut the Notre Dame advantage to 23-21 before consecutive three-pointers by Zeller and Ayers boosted it back to eight. Ayers, who was 1-of-17 in the Irish's previous two games, drilled his second trifecta just two minutes later.
Gibbs scored eight points during a 13-5 run by the Panthers that evened the score at 34-34 with 3:18 to play in the half. But just as soon as Pitt pulled even, the Irish stretched their lead back to six with three-pointers by McAlarney and Zeller.
Hillesland's three-point play in the final seconds of the half gave Notre Dame a 45-39 lead at intermission.
Zeller finished the first half with 18 points on six three-pointers while Harangody and McAlarney scored eight and six points respectively. Harangody was just 3-for-11 from the field although he did pull down six rebounds.
Gibbs led the Panthers with 13 first-half points while Blair managed a double-double in the first half alone with 11 points and 12 boards. The Irish held Pitt's leading scorer, Sam Young, scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting in the first half and he finished the contest with just five points.