No. 20 Pitt blew a 16-point first-half lead and fell to No. 25 Notre Dame, 51-42, tonight at the Petersen Events Center.
The loss dropped Pitt 20-7 overall and 8-6 in Big East play with four games remaining. Notre Dame improved to 21-6 and 9-5 in conference play.
Tray Woodall led Pitt with 11 points, but the Panthers could not take advantage of a Notre Dame defense that entered the game 14th among 15 teams in the Big East in points allowed and field-goal percentage defense.
Jack Cooley Jerian Grant had 13 points to lead Notre Dame, which has won five consecutive games against Pitt.
Notre Dame made one basket in the first 13:54 of the game, but the Irish controlled play over the final 27 minutes and stunned the 12,556 in attendance who initially thought they were going to witness a Pitt blowout.
Pitt led 19-3, but that lead was cut to 22-19 at halftime following a 16-3 Notre Dame run to end the half.
Notre Dame took its first lead since 1-0 when Grant made a 3-pointer for a 29-28 lead with 14:41 to go.
Pitt retook the lead 32-31, but Notre Dame controlled the play over the final 10 minutes of the game. The Irish went on a 12-2 run to take a 43-34 lead with 4:45 remaining.
Pitt took advantage of some sloppy offensive play by Notre Dame to take the big early lead. The Irish missed 18 of their first 19 shots and had six turnovers in the first 13 minutes of the game.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was whistled for a technical foul when his team was reeling with 7:08 remaining, but it might have been exactly what his team needed. From that point, the Irish dominated.
Pat Connaughton kick-started the comeback with consecutive 3-pointers 51 seconds apart to cut the lead to 10. Cooley, who was held without a field goal for the first 16:55 of the game, scored the final two buckets of the run.
The only Pitt player to score in the final six minutes was Dante Taylor, who made one basket and a free throw.
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1. First Published February 19, 2013 2:15 AM