Robinson, Pitt complete earn signature win over No. 8 Notre Dame
By: Ryan Bertonaschi
Deep underneath the Petersen Events Center’s 12,500 seats is a labyrinth of corridors that get Pitt’s basketball team and Petersen Events Center employees from point A to point B.
Hung on a wall in a stairway is a sign that reads: Expect to win, and when you do, act accordingly.
The 14-8 Panthers are certainly not in the midst of one of head coach Jamie Dixon’s prolific seasons, but his junior point guard, James Robinson, propelled Pitt towards a 76-72 upset win over no. 8 ranked Notre Dame (20-3, 8-2) Saturday afternoon that reminded the blue and gold faithful and folks around the ACC that Pitt is a program to not be forgotten about.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, for one, expressed high praise for the Pitt team that downed his Irish and is certainly not counting the Panthers out this season.
“I think they’re going to be in the NCAA tournament when it’s all said and done,” Brey said after the game. “
The Panthers essentially took Notre Dame’s prized senior forward, Jerian Grant, who received preseason All-ACC honors and is a shoe-in as a 2015 lottery pick by many NBA analysts, out of the game.
Grant finished the game with 14 points on a 4 of 9 shooting performance.
With nine minutes left and Michael Young guarding him off a screen, Grant pulled up for a 3-pointer that came up shy of the rim. For the rest of the afternoon, Grant was heckled with “air ball” chants from Pitt’s Oakland Zoo every time he touched the ball.
Robinson guarded Grant for the majority of the afternoon.
“I just tried to not let him get the ball as much as I can. When he has the ball in his hands he can be really effective, whether it’s scoring or passing,” Robinson said.
Grant came into the contest averaging 17 points and 7 assists per contest.
“When I was denying him,” Robinson continued. “The other four guys on the court did a really great job of keeping their man in front of him as well. So we didn’t really have to help out as much.”
Robinson finished with 15 points and 10 assists.
Pitt took its largest lead of the day with 4:30 remaining, when Cameron Wright swatted away a lay-up attempt by Demetrius Jackson, which turned into a lay-in from Jamel Artis to put the Panthers up 71-63.
But the “air ball” chants only seemed to motivate Grant, who scored seven points in the game’s final four minutes, and the Irish capitalized on a turnover, missed jumper and missed free throw by Pitt in the final minutes to take a 72-71 lead with 31 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Pitt moved the ball around the perimeter did not receive an open look. Robinson penetrated left to the middle of the key and spun around. He laid in a left-handed bunny to put Pitt back on top.
Jamel Artis tripped and fell in the lane, and, with 10 seconds left, the Irish had a five-on-four run that ended in a missed 3-pointer by Pat Connaughton.
Artis pulled down the missed shot, he made two free-throws, and Robinson intercepted Connaughton’s inbounds pass at midcourt.
Robinson hit the first of two free throws, and Pitt escaped 76-72.
“Robinson is such a rock. He’s so consistent,” Brey said.
Artis finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds. Young chipped in with 16 and 5 rebounds, and Wright had 14.
Pitt won the rebounding battle 27 to 23, and the Panthers Panthers shot 59 percent, opposed to the Irish’s 53.1 percent.
“This game right here was the season,” Artis said. “Guys came out and played hard.”
Pitt returns to action Monday night against Bryant at the Petersen Events Center.