Tag Archives: Pitt vs Notre Dame

Notre Dame 50 Pitt 45

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Game Recap

I’m not sure what I think about this one.  Both teams seemed willing to play slightly slower than a snail’s pace, so that’s how it went.  In a game like that, the more efficient team at both ends wins.  Notre Dame was the more efficient team.  They won, and they deserved it.  That much is obvious.  Should Pitt have pushed the tempo a bit more?  I don’t think so as evidenced by the fact that they were in it until the very last possession.  My diagnosis is this: Pitt took some 3’s in the first half, and they just weren’t falling.  Good teams (maybe well coached teams is more of what I want to say there) admit when it’s not their night to play the game they want to and find a way to win anyway.  Pitt made an attempt at that by trying to be more aggressive driving the lane, and it worked sometimes and resulted in forced shots other times.  It wasn’t perfect, but it kept Pitt in the game.  That’s for sure.  But I’m almost positive that if Pitt hits a few 3’s, this is a totally different game.  Notre Dame deserved that game because they made the Panthers one dimensional.  The Irish frontcourt did a wonderful job sealing off the low post, so when the shots didn’t fall the only option left was taking your man off the dribble.  If they make some shots and put some pressure on Notre Dame at two fronts, they can put Notre Dame on their heels a bit.  I have a sinking suspicion that when Notre Dame gets down by more than 5 or 10 for the first time that the tendency to run and gun will surface again and it’ll be a hard freight train to stop.  But I guess we’ll see whenever that happens.  Some other random thoughts:

  • Pitt didn’t get much in the way of bench points.  You have to temper your expectations with the final score, but it still wasn’t a real great showing.
  • The best argument for Pitt speeding up the tempo in this game?  Notre Dame only went 7 players deep (even with a foul out).  An up and down game really wears guys out.
  • Jay Bilas made a big deal about the switching on the ball screens.  I saw it too, and I’m a big Jay Bilas fan, but I’m not sure it was that huge of a deal.  Pitt switches a lot like that, and their guards are usually very good at guarding bigger guys.  This game they got their lunch eaten, but there’s not much you can do there.  The other options are to not hedge on screens and allow some open 3’s, or play zone and allow some open 3’s.  Neither one sounded all that good, either.  The bigger hole in Pitt’s defense that I saw was the uncontested layups when a guy was too eager to double team late in a shot clock.
  • I’m sure this is the type of game that non-Big East fans tuned out.  That’s fine.  This was a game where you had to appreciate the defense: the screens, the switching, the help side, etc.  Most people don’t have the patience for that.  Their loss.

So that’s pretty much it until selection Sunday.  I think the consensus for Pitt is a 3 or 4 seed.  We’ll have to see.  If they could ever play consistently, they’d be Final Four material.  I’m not holding out hope for that, though.  Which is why as a Pitt fan I’ll take that 3/4 seed and say ‘Thank You’.

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Top 10 Games At The Pete

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I got to thinking after today’s game that there’s been a lot of great games at the Pete, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be there in person for just about all of them.  So, because lists are fun, I thought I’d put together a list of my top 10 games at the Pete.  Here goes.

10. 2/17/07 Pitt 65 Washington 61

The Huskies came into the Pete with Jon Brockman and Spencer Hawes, two big men who were both McDonalds All Americans out of high school and very highly regarded.  Pitt countered with their own frontcourt combo of Aaron Gray and Levon Kendall, two guys with less credentials but a lot more collegiate experience.  Brockman and Hawes each scored in double digits, but balanced scoring for Pitt was the difference.  After a back and forth game, Ronald Ramon hit a pair of free throws to finally put this one away and protect Pitt’s #7 ranking.

9. 1/2/05 Pitt 66 Bucknell 69

I guess not every game has to turn out well for Pitt.  The Panthers lead for most of this game, until Kevin Bettencourt made a pair of free throws with 23 seconds left to take the lead.  A pair more after a missed shot by Pitt would bring Bucknell to the winning 3 point margin.  Pitt was ranked #10 at the time.  Bucknell turned out to be giant killers that year, bringing down St. Joe’s and Kansas (in the tournament) as well.  It hurt to see those guys jumping around like idiots after the game, but to be honest, you had to feel good for them.  Just a little bit.  They remain the only non-conference team to get a win at the Pete.

8. 3/7/09 Pitt 70 UConn 60

This was the culmination of a lot of UConn/Pitt matchups.  Earlier in the year, Pitt went up to Stoors and beat the Huskies.  It knocked them out of the #1 seed, and it provided the defining image of the rivalry: DeJuan Blair flipping Hasheem Thabeet over his back.  For the return battle, the Huskies had climbed their way back into the #1 spot and were looking for revenge against #3 Pitt.  They didn’t find it.  With one of the loudest Petersen crowds I’ve ever heard behind them, Pitt pulled out to a 10 point halftime lead and never looked back.  Sam Young had 31 points in the game which is still amazing to me.  How in the world did he do that against UConn’s defense?

7. 1/21/07 Pitt 74 Marquette 77 (OT)

Another great game that just didn’t go quite in our favor.  Marquette lead for most of the game and had a 9 point advantage with 4 minutes left.  Pitt made a serious run, but Marquette refused to miss free throws (they didn’t miss from about 5 minutes left in the game on, going 15-15 in the stretch).  Trailing by with 8 seconds left, Antonio Graves got fouled.  He hit the first and missed the second which Ronald Ramon collected and was fouled himself.  He then proceeded to hit both of his free throws to send it into overtime.  That sequence still amazes me.  The odds of it happening are so slim it’s mind boggling.  Overtime was as exciting as could be with 4 ties and 3 lead changes.  With Pitt up by 1, Dominique James was fouled while shooting with 1 freaking second left.  I still maintain that it should have been let go, but I digress.  Dominique made both free throws and Wesley Matthews was fouled on the Pitt inbound play (that definitely set me off), and put in two more to made the winning margin 3.  I’ve never left the Pete more upset.  This would have been much higher on the list because it was a phenomenal game, but I’m putting it further down the list because I want to forget it.

6. 2/15/04 Pitt 75 UConn 68

This was the first really big game at the Pete.  Pitt was ranked #4 at the time so they had been winning, but they never played a team in the top 5 while being favored.  That’s what happened when #5 UConn rolled into town.  Tickets were being scalped outside for hundreds of dollars, but those that didn’t sell their tickets got quite a show.  Jim Calhoun got a technical foul in the first 2 minutes.  Pitt built up a 9-2 foul advantage (I thought Calhoun’s head was going to explode) and the Panthers used it to gain a quick lead.  UConn came back, however.  Emeka Okafor (UConn’s star center) was in foul trouble.  He picked up some early fouls and sat which was a big reason Pitt jumped out to its lead.  He came back and UConn clawed back to single digits.  He picked up his fourth foul with about 10 minutes left, and Pitt went on an 11-0 run while he was back on the bench.  That was the ballgame.  I’ve never seen Jim Calhoun so upset.  Ben Gordan (UConn’s point guard) had 21 in an attempt to carry the team.  Pitt countered with a lot of points from it’s role players: Mark McCarroll had 15 points and Jaron Brown had 17.  I feel like the refs kind of gave this one to Pitt, but I’ll take it.  It was an absolutely huge win for the program.

5. 1/13/07 Pitt 74 Georgetown 69

Speaking of program building wins, this was another one.  Pitt was finally starting to get some respect in the 06/07 season, and along comes the biggest stage they had ever played on.  ESPN’s College Gameday came to Pitt for the matchup against Georgetown.  The big storyline matchup was again in the low post.  The Hoyas came in with Roy Hibbert, and Pitt had Aaron Gray.  Both were upperclassmen who were some of the best at their position.  The students were out in force at 9 am for the College Gameday taping, and kept the excitment up until the game finally tipped at 9pm.  By the time the game started, the arena was about ready to blow its roof off.  All people had to do was look up at the open concourse below the banners where ESPN set up a stage for Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas and Hubert Davis to know that this was a huge game.  Gray and Hibbert canceled each other out though Gray probably out-played Hibbert a bit, and the difference was again Pitt’s depth.  Pitt’s physical play put them over the top, though Georgetown was able to keep it within 10 or 15 for most of the second half.  Winning a game like that on national TV opened up a lot of eyes.

4. 2/29/04 Pitt 46 Syracuse 49 (OT)

The last game on the list without a happy ending.  Pitt entered this game with the nations longest home winning streak.  It was the second to last home game of the year when Jim Boeheim brought his guys to the Pete.  The game was fantastic.  The largest lead the whole way through was 6 points.  It’s was physical and defensive oriented and well played overall at both ends.  The last possession was Pitt’s, trailing by 1.  Pitt did the smart thing which was to get the ball down low to Chevy Troutman.  Chevy missed the layup, but the refs gave us a gift and called the foul with 3 seconds left.  I still think we got away with one there, but it didn’t cost Syracuse the game, anyway.  Chevy went to the line, hit the first, and missed the second.  In the overtime, we kept feeding Chris Taft, but Gerry McNamara had 5 points by himself, and Syracuse won.  It was the first loss ever in the Pete.  It was also the first really drama filled game there.

3. 1/16/10 Pitt 82 Louisville 77 (OT)

The game that was just played.  There are two reasons why I have this game above the other overtime games listed here.  First and foremost, we won.  Leaving happy moves you up the list.  I’m biased.  Second of all, like the Marquette game this one had a really improbable comeback.  We were down by 5 with a minute left.  I saw people leave.  We were dead.  But due to a 1-5 free throw shooting streak in the final minute by Louisville, we made it back to tie at the end of regulation.  Once again, the odds of a great shooting team like Louisville dying like that are slim.  It still amazes me that it happened.  Combine that with the expectations for this year, the lack of star players, and you get one heck of a game to tell people about.  The only downside to this game was that it lacked excitement in OT.  It seemed like Louisville was stunned to be there and threw in the towel.  We out-rebounded them in the overtime 6-2.  That’s a clear sign of their motivation level.  But, other than that, it was a terrific game.  The atmosphere was once again electric, and it got my heart pounding.  It’s the type of win you leave just loving life.

2. 2/7/08 Pitt 55 WVU 54

I don’t think I’ve ever left a game loving life more than when I left this one.  It has to be my favorite Pitt game of all time, and it would easily grab the top spot if it weren’t for a simply indescribable game I still can’t believe I got to witness.  All I have to say is Ronald Ramon.  You know exactly what game I mean, right?  Exactly.  If not, here’s something to jog your memory:

Man, there are so many reasons why this is a great game.  The fact that it was a rivalry.  The fact that it was won on a last second buzzer beater (as opposed to just a close game).  The WVU collapse leading up to it where they couldn’t make a free throw to save their lives.  It just all came together into a classic game.

1. 1/4/06 Pitt 100 Notre Dame 97 (2OT)

This was just a simply incredible game.  It’s another one that’s defined by one player: Chris Quinn.  Notre Dame was like Rasputin in this game, they just refused to die.  The Irish were struggling in this game, but hung around just enough.  With under a minute left they were down by 9.  Any other team in America would have been packing it in.  The fans sure were.  I was starting to see a lot of blue seats and jackets being put on.  But then something got into Chris Quinn and I’m not sure what it was.  In the last minute he hit two 3 pointers that, along with 2 more 3 pointers by Colin Falls, were enough to force overtime.  That was crazy enough, but he wasn’t done.  Pitt built a quick 7 point advantage in the first overtime and the crowd was going nuts.  Quinn answered with 8 points by himself to send it into double overtime including the tying three point shot with 5 seconds left.  He then proceeded to lead off the third overtime with the first bucket and the crowd was getting pretty restless.  But that was all the magic he had left in him.  He turned it over, missed a drive to the hoop, and that was it.  But it’s still the most amazing individual performace I’ve ever seen.  Chris wound up with Petersen Center records for points (37), field goals (13), field goal attempts (23) and opponent assists (9).  And he did all that with the Zoo getting on him harder than I’ve ever heard them get on anyone before, and the entire Pitt defense zeroing in on him because he was quite literally the only guy who could score.  And he wasn’t just hitting shots.  He was hitting from distance.  There were some shots he made that I swear were about 5 or 6 feet behind the 3 point arc.  Just incredible.

So, that’s my list.  If you think I missed something, let me know.  I think it’s pretty impressive considering that the building’s only in it’s eighth season.  But I guess that’s a testament to the quality of program that resides there.  As of today, Pitt is 125-10 at the Pete.  That’s incredible.  That kind of record means that lots of teams come in with extra motivation.  It means that we have a team that’s going to bring out the best in all our opponents, and who is talented enough to match that level.  That’s what’s been creating all of these terrific games.  I’ll be going to a lot more in the future, and I hope to have a list with a few new additions in a few years.

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Pitt 27 Notre Dame 22

 

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Game Recap

That was a great win last night, but I can’t help but feel a little empty looking back at it.  I guess that’s because we didn’t quite accomplish the goal.  The game was meaningless in the standings.  The goal was to prove to the nation that we were for real.  That we were something to watch.  Well, reading the postgame stories, it appears that the story line is that we survived Notre Dame and got some questionable calls at the end to hold them off.  That’s misleading to say the least.  We out-played the Irish for 3 quarters.  The questionable calls?  Well, that certainly was a chop block.  There’s no arguing that one.  As for the fumble at the end?  Well, looking at the replay, it looks like the ball came out at the back of his windup.  Exactly in no-mans land fumble wise.  Now, I understand the Irish argument of how the ball went forward if it was a fumble.  Well, the defenders arm was also swinging forward at the time of the fumble following Clausen’s arm path.  So the ball is going forward fumble or not.  Looking closer at a replay, I would have ruled it an incompletion.  I can see the ball going forward, but not that far forward if it were a fumble.  And I wish they would have ruled it an incompletion, too.  Notre Dame was facing a 4th and 16 and some long odds to getting the winning score.  Even with their great passing game.  I would have liked to see them lose by themselves and take away any doubt.  Though, in hindsight, any doubt would have been removed if we hadn’t allowed that punt return, either.  But, alas, that’s not the case.   We won.  We got zero respect for it.  I had a sinking suspicion that this was a no-win game for Pitt.  Either we lose and the Big East is weak and so are we, or we win and Notre Dame gets torn apart in national perception this year and we still have no “quality” wins.   That’s exactly what happened.

But, anyway, lets step away from my frustrations as a fan of a non-insane-amount-of-fans team and examine the actual game, shall we?  When the Irish had the ball, it was no surprise how much Notre Dame relied on the passing game.  The Irish had 42 passing downs and 25 rushing attempts (as compared to 27 passing plays and 32 rushing plays for Pitt).  Notre Dame only got 66 rushing yards on the day, but it appeared like a lot more with Armando Allen busting off a few good 10 yard rushes.  The Irish offensive line is huge.  They average 315 pounds per man with the shortest guy being 6’4″.  They’re monsters.  They’re in stark contrast to our much quicker by smaller defensive line.  You saw both strengths get highlighted on different plays.  There were times when the Irish line just got in our path and wouldn’t let us through.  That was when Clausen would get what looked like 10  seconds to make a throw or Allen would get to run 8 yards before being touched.  On the other hand, if we got  around them, they weren’t going to catch up.  That’s when you saw us flush Clausen out of the pocket (we only had 1 sack, but a lot of pressures) or make a throw he wasn’t ready for.  The defensive backs played a very nice game.  But, as I’ve said in previous posts, the defensive backs have never been the problem this season.  When we’ve gotten exposed by a passing game, it’s by little over the middle stuff that attacks our outside linebackers in coverage.  Notre Dame didn’t run one crossing route all game.  That was a mistake.  Throwing toss-ups to Golden Tate is not a bad idea.  The kid is a freak athlete, and I was really impressed by him.  He has outstanding hands, and then can kill you when he’s got possession of the ball.  But, that’s still not attacking Pitt’s weak spot.  They had some success throwing dump-offs towards the sidelines.  I’m wondering why they didn’t expand on that success.

Offensively, we showed a lot of balance.  The Notre Dame defense kept switching back and forth between stacking the rush and dropping into coverage for the first couple of quarters.  They finally decided on blitzing with an eye towards stopping the run.  No matter what they did, we found a way to counter.  We did a fantastic job of picking up blitzes.  That right there is the single biggest reason that we came out a winner in this one.  Bill Stull had a clean jersey all game, and just picked apart the Irish defense.  Dion Lewis didn’t have much against a much bigger front 7 than he’s faced before, but he stayed patient.  He had the one big 50 yard touchdown run, but didn’t break off any other big ones.  To his credit, he didn’t get frustrated and just took what was given.  He ended up getting 102 yards on 20 carries (excluding the big 50 yarder).  He sure didn’t play like a freshman.  Jonathan Baldwin stole the show offensively.  He made a couple of very athletic catches that brought back some shades of some guy named Larry that just rolled through Pittsburgh a few years ago.  Who says we’re no longer wide receiver U?

Overall, the national perception of this game is disappointing, but at least we got the win.  It’s much better than the alternative.  I don’t think any Pitt fans were surprised by the performance the team gave yesterday, and we’ve got a couple of more games in this season to make the rest of the country wake up and smell the coffee, too.  The Backyard Brawl being the first of them a week from Friday.  I think Morgantown will be foaming at the mouth considering what happened the last time we were down there.  To tell you the truth, I’m kind of glad that the game is meaningless in the Big East.  I think we’ve got more talent, but you never want to have something on the line when a team is looking for revenge like that.

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Pitt 37 Syracuse 10

 

image from espn.com

 

Game Recap

Well, what can you honestly say about this game?  I mean, it was exactly what you expected from this matchup.  Syracuse’s defense was the heart of the team and made us work for every point we put up.  The Orange offense, however, couldn’t score.  At all.  They marched down the field on basically one play then settle for a field goal to start the game, then go 3 and a half quarters without doing anything, followed by a 5 penalty drive that gifted them a touchdown.  In that drive, Syracuse gained 39 total yards on penalties and 19 yards by their own doing.  All 5 penalties gave them first downs.  If I’m Syracuse, I’ve got too much pride to let someone gift me a score like that.  I mean, if the refs giving you pity touchdowns isn’t a sign that you suck, I don’t know what is.

The actual play by the team was nice.  The secondary has continued its streak of terrific play after a shaky start to say the least (but they weren’t really tested all that much in this one).  The run defense was pushed a little bit because Syracuse has some excellent running backs.  I was disappointed in the run-stop (especially because they were one-dimensional.  If you can’t stop what you know is coming, you have some serious issues), but it’s at least excusable for one week.  Offensively, we again showed a ton of balance.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I can’t remember this many weapons on one Pitt team before.  I think that’s the real secret to our success right there.  Both facets of the offense work to open the other up.  It’s terrific.

I mean, I’m running into the same problem with Pitt that I’ve run into for a few times with the Pens.  Unless you’re completely inept (like the Pirates), it’s much easier to pick apart what’s wrong than to praise the same things after every game.  I don’t know what else to say about this Pitt team.  The offense is fantastic.  I feel lucky every time I step into Heinz Field that I get to watch them (and I wish more people would want to experience that.  I’m tired of seeing yellow).  The defense isn’t perfect, but it’s darn good.  And certainly good enough to win given the offense this team has.  Now comes the fun part: the final exam we all knew was coming.  These final 3 games will define a lot.  Our perception is most likely about to change: for the better or worse.  Both nationally, and more importantly, right here in Pittsburgh.  We can either be the new and improved Pitt that has returned to prominence, or the same old Pitt that becomes a paper tiger when the games get tough.  Next week will be important not just for Pitt, but the Big East.  If we win, there’s a chance that we could reclaim the Gator Bowl for the Big East and send Notre Dame to Charlotte.  If we lose, it doesn’t hurt us (except for the rankings and prestige), but Notre Dame almost certainly gets the Gator Bowl.  Should be a packed house for once, and a really exciting game.  I’m already looking forward to it.

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