Bob Smizik: Dixon's timeout blunder against Notre Dame almost costs Pitt

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Pitt got a needed win over Notre Dame today that will push it toward an almost certain bid to the NCAA tournament.

But a coaching blunder by Jamie Dixon that could have cost the Panthers the win figures to get most of the attention coming out of this victory.

After trailing by as many as 12 early in the game, Pitt cut the margin to four at halftime and seemingly took control of the game in the second half. But Notre Dame would not go away and tied the game on a 3-point basket with 7.7 seconds remaining.

After a timeout, Pitt set up a near-perfect play for Lamar Patterson. With the floor widely spaced, Patterson, at the top of the circle, clearly had his defender beaten as he started a drive to the basket.

Inexplicably, with victory seemingly at hand, Dixon called a timeout with 2.7 seconds remaining. Patterson never got to finish his play.

The decision left everyone, including Patterson, in amazement.

ESPN color analyst Doris Burke said of Patterson, ''I thought he was going to get right by the defender.’’

Seconds later, after Patterson was seen screaming in the direction of the Pitt bench, she said, ''He’s mad and he’s mad because he knew he had his defender ... .'’

Out of the timeout, Pitt got a prayer from James Robinson that wasn’t close and the game went to overtime, in which Pitt controlled play and won, 85-81.

Pitt is 22-7 and, despite anything approaching a signature win, is a near-lock for a tournament bid. But on this particular afternoon, it's no thanks to Dixon.

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