GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers will try to build off a 66-59 win over Boston College on Wednesday, as they visit the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in an ACC battle this afternoon.
Although a win over a 7-21 Boston College squad isn't anything to brag about, the Panthers really needed Wednesday's victory, as they had dropped three straight prior to the contest. Pitt is still an impressive 21-7 overall, but it fell from the national rankings last week and is only fifth in the ACC standings (9-6). The Panthers play their home finale on Monday against NC State.
Notre Dame also earned a win on Wednesday, taking a 65-62 decision from Georgia Tech. The Irish, who also spent time in the national rankings this season, are just 15-14 overall, including a 6-10 mark in league play during their first year in the ACC. They will wrap up the regular season on Monday night against No. 19 North Carolina.
These former Big East foes are matching up as ACC opponents for the first time in this one. Notre Dame has won the last five meetings, and leads the all- time series, 31-27.
It wasn't easy, but it was a victory nonetheless for Pittsburgh against Boston College. The Panthers connected on an even 50 percent of their total shots, but they allowed the Eagles to stick around by turning the ball over 17 times. Talib Zanna scored a team-high 21 points to lead the way.
Pittsburgh is comfortable playing in low-scoring affairs thanks to its commitment at the defensive end of the court. The Panthers, who have allowed fewer than 70 points in seven of their last eight games, are letting up only 60.9 ppg on 40.5 percent shooting this season. On offense, they do not blow teams away (72 ppg), but they normally do a good job of controlling the ball, ranking 16th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (+1.46). Lamar Patterson (17.1 ppg, 4.4 apg) is the team's best scorer and playmaker. Zanna (12.5 ppg, 8 rpg) eats up space on the inside and Cameron Wright (109 ppg) provides scoring depth.
Notre Dame never trailed in the second half against Georgia Tech, but its margin for error was razor thin as the Irish never led by more than nine points. They connected on 46.6 percent from the floor overall, while holding the Yellow Jackets to 37.3 percent, but a 30-15 deficit from 3-point range kept the game close.
Garrick Sherman (13.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg) added to his team-high scoring average by dropping in 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting against Georgia Tech. It was a strong showing for Sherman, especially considering he had been held out of double figures in the previous four games. Eric Atkins (13.6 ppg, 4.6 apg) and Pat Connaughton (13.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.1 apg) keep the ball moving out on the perimeter, while providing strong scoring in their own right. Atkins tallied 17 points against the Yellow Jackets, and Connaughton made up for a 3-of-11 shooting effort by grabbing eight rebounds and handing out six assists.
The core of Sherman, Connaughton and Atkins is a solid one for Notre Dame. However, it has not been as consistent as the trio of contributors that the Panthers trot out. Expect Pitt to once again grind out a victory by playing strong defense.
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