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Vasturia's 3 lifts No. 24 Notre Dame by Pitt 78-77 in OT

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Steve Vasturia knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing with 2.5 seconds left in overtime to rally No. 24 Notre Dame past Pittsburgh 78-77 on Saturday.

PITTSBURGH -- Steve Vasturia is surely a name Pitt fans will wish to wash away from memory for 2017.

Ringing in the New Year the best way these two ACC foes know how, it was Notre Dame (12-2, 1-0) who soured Pitt (11-3, 0-1) and its party plans, as they defeated the Panthers 78-77 on a three-pointer from Vasturia with just 2.9 seconds left.

Vasturia, who finished with 15 points and 3 of 8 shooting from beyond-the-arc, found the wide open look thanks to an offensive rebound by Bonzie Colson, who absolutely dominated the Panthers in the paint with a team-best 21 points and 14 rebounds.

“I think we can point to a number of things that hurt us,” said Coach Kevin Stallings.  “We just kept getting to the rim, the ball would hang on the rim and fall off and that’s what enabled them to get an eight-point lead.  We had great shots but didn’t have a good shooting day.  I would be feeling a lot better if we made our second half layups.”

The Panthers shot a not-so-hot 37.5% from the field, going 27 of 72, despite connecting on 7 of its first 8 shots in the first half and pushing to as much as a 12-point lead.

“I thought we kept them off the foul line, we kept them below their number in threes, we did a lot of good things,” Stallings continued.  “They just made one more winning play than we made.  I wasn’t worried about getting the game in the 80s because I think that they can score just as well as we can.”

Pitt got a combined 50 points from the dynamic-duo of Michael Young and Jamel Artis (25 a-piece), with the two combining 19 of 41 from the field.

“We fought so hard, we were right there, up five with two minutes left,” said Young who finished with seven rebounds and seven assists in over 40 minutes of play.  “This is a tough one to lose, because we had the game in our hands.  You don’t want to lose but it’s harder when you had it.”

The Panthers, who were down  by eight after a 9-2 run by Notre Dame with just under eight minutes left in the second half, fought back and had its best shot to win the game when tied at 68 and the ball with 19 seconds left.  

Artis, who drew quick defense on him at the top of the key, dished it to Chris Jones who had a wide-open corner three with three seconds, but was blocked by the seeming to be out of nowhere hand of VJ Beachem, which inevitably sent the game to OT.

“We drew up a play, Chris was wide open,” said Artis.  “A guy collapsed on me and I made the right play I think.”

“Jamel made the right play, I was going to shoot it with confidence but Beachem stepped up,” said Jones who finished with four points and two rebounds in 26 minutes after being cleared to play during the shoot around.  Jones got injured earlier last week.

Notre Dame shot 31 of 69 (44.9%) from the field, while connecting on 9 of 27 from three-point.  They put up a staggering 40-18 difference in points in the paint despite being outrebounded 45-39.

The Irish held Pitt to just five field goal opportunities in the overtime period, while putting together a 4 of 9 extra minutes’ campaign itself.

“We have now won six in a row and we are 14-3 in overtime.  This is what we do,” said Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey.  “There is a big psychological advantage for us because we’re so good in overtime.”

Brey’s Irish, who got big numbers from Matt Farrell (16 points) and the brother of former Pitt star Ashton Gibbs, TJ, who finished with seven points while much of the fan base chanted “Ashton’s better” every time the freshman touched the ball.

“I thought our bench stepped up really big, and I think guys like TJ really stuck to their game despite the atmosphere,” Brey stated.

The coach continued about the Pitt-Notre Dame rivalry.

“We’ve had great games against Pitt.  The Pitt basketball program, I have the utmost respect for.  I think we’re .500 in my tenure.  We’ll go on a streak and win a couple in a row, and they’ll go on and win a couple in a row.  There are a lot of memories against Pitt and they are a fun team to compete against.”

While Notre Dame had four guys in double figures, the Panthers finished with three, including Cam Johnson who netted 14 points, with six rebounds to his resume.  The other six players that touched the floor for Pitt combined for just 13 points.

Inauguration Day
Kevin Stallings talked about the sour feeling of starting his first game in the ACC off as a loss.

“This wasn’t as good as my first game in the SEC,” Coach said.  “Eighteen years ago I was able to win my first SEC game, and I wish we could have repeated that today, but unfortunately we didn’t.  But you know, it’s about these kids, it’s not about me.  I’m just disappointed that I didn’t help us make just one more play to win this game.”

After the Spread
Pitt opened up ACC play with a natural loss, but an unforgiving push in the Vegas variety, as they closed as +1 home underdogs.  The overtime period helped push the game over the 151.5 total with 155 points scored.

Next Up
Pitt will tackle the second leg of a brutal ACC campaign when it travels to Charlottesville to face Virginia on Wednesday, Jan. 4.  Tipoff is set for 9 PM and the game will be televised on Root Sports.

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