The Panthers (22-7, 10-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) fell behind by 12 in the first half, when the Irish shot 74 percent, and were forced to overtime when they managed just one basket in the final six minutes, but held a slight edge through much of overtime. The Panthers took the lead for good with 1:56 left when James Robinson made a pair of free throws and Zanna added a dunk 33 seconds later to give Pitt a four-point lead.
Vasturia hit a pair free throws with 5 seconds left to cut the lead to 81-80. But Michael Young and Patterson hit two free throws each in the closing seconds as the Panthers held on.
Patterson said the Panthers knew the Irish couldn’t keep up their torrid first-half shooting.
“That can only last so long. They had a stretch where they couldn’t hit anything and just by us being able to rebound those misses, it gave us a lot more opportunities on the other end,” he said.
Notre Dame (15-15, 6-11) , which had turned the ball over 24 times in its previous four games, had 16 turnovers against the Panthers as they lost for the first time in four overtime games this season. The Irish finished 13-6 at home, their most home losses since going 11-7 in 2004.
Brey said he was disappointed the Irish couldn’t send Atkins out with a victory in his final regular-season game at home.
“I have an unbelievable close relationship with him. He’s an extension of what we want to do,” he said. “He kind of finishes my sentences. He’s been a great ambassador, has represented, and is a class act.”
Dixon was pleased the Panthers didn’t wilt when the Irish got off to such a strong start.
“To withstand their barrage in the first half says a lot about our guys,” he said. “I thought it was a great character game for us to keep battling and keep fighting.”