Observations: Notre Dame Blasts Pittsburgh For Second Straight Road Win
Notre Dame has won two straight ACC road games by double digits and three of its last four overall.
The Irish dusted Pittsburgh 84-58 Saturday night, moving to 6-9 and 3-6 in the ACC.
Here are some observations from the game.
• There was a hole to exploit – or more accurately, some good fortune to snap – in Pitt’s defense this season despite its high efficiency ranking in league games. Entering Saturday, the Panthers’ defense had allowed its ACC opponents to take 42.8 percent of their shots from three-point range, the fourth-highest volume in the conference. Those opponents were mainly poor shooting teams and made only 28.5 percent of their three-point attempts.
Enter Notre Dame, which can make a lot of threes if it can generate open ones. The Irish found clean looks from deep in transition and off drive-and-kicks due to Pitt’s inability to consistently stay in front. They were 6-for-12 on threes in the first half and ended 13-for-24. They took 42 percent of their field goals from beyond the arc, right at the average Pitt allows.
• Some of the gaudy final numbers: Notre Dame shot 56.1 percent from the floor (32-for-57), averaged 1.29 points per possession (it was 1.41 with about five minutes left), committed only seven turnovers and had 20 assists on 32 field goals. Guards Cormac Ryan and Prentiss Hubb were a combined 10-for-13 on threes. Hubb and guard Trey Wertz navigated the traps and hard hedges Pitt used in ball screen defense, totaling 14 assists against four turnovers.
• Notre Dame moved to 9-1 since the start of last season in games where Hubb has at least eight assists. His had nine at Pitt, the third time hitting that mark in the last four games. He is also 16-for-29 on threes in the last four games after starting ACC play 3-for-29.
• Notre Dame won this game with its efficiency, but make no mistake, the Irish’s defense was at its best too. Pitt shot 31.5 percent from the floor and averaged .88 points per possession. Per coach Mike Brey’s counting, Notre Dame had 24 “stop-scores.”
The Irish turned Pitt, a low-volume, low-percentage three-point shooting team, into a stilted offense that had to settle for perimeter shots and was only 11-of-24 on dunks and layups. Pitt’s ACC Player of the Year Candidate, Justin Champagnie, was 8-for-20 and drew only one shooting foul in scoring 19 points.
• The defense from Notre Dame was a mix of a 2-3 zone and man-to-man with some switching. It contained Pitt’s guards and particularly frustrated point guard Xavier Johnson. The ACC’s assist leader entering the game, Johnson was 2-for-6 from the field with three assists and two turnovers before fouling out with 11:28 left. Notre Dame had high hands and bodies in front of him all night.
• Nate Laszewski didn’t make a three-pointer and ended with only seven points and 3-of-7 shooting. But he took three attempts from deep, which he had not done in a single game since Jan. 16. That’s closer to the volume the Irish need from him. Notre Dame’s first basket came when he scored against a guard who had switched onto him. The Irish had trouble finding him in those mismatches in Wednesday’s loss to Virginia Tech and in other defeats earlier in the year.
• Forward Juwan Durham was active as a roller and the recipient of a few dump-off passes. He turned them into 14 points. Ten of those came in the first half. He even hit a couple jumpers, a sign that it was simply Notre Dame’s night.
• Durham, though, struggled in Notre Dame’s one problem area. He didn’t grab a rebound until 13:29 remained in the game and had only three overall. He had trouble boxing out Champagnie, who grabbed four offensive rebounds. Pitt grabbed 17 of its missed shots – 34 percent of its total. The best way for Notre Dame to overcome its rebounding problems is to have more games where it shoots at least 50 percent from the field.
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