SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Eric Atkins stepped to the foul line, knowing he needed to miss to give Notre Dame one final chance in overtime against Pittsburgh.
The senior, playing his last regular-season home game at Purcell Pavilion, successfully clanked the shot, but Pittsburgh was there for the rebound. Just like the Panthers were for a majority of the contest.
Lamar Patterson got the rebound and then made two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining as the Panthers held on for an 85-81 victory.
“You’re disappointed because you kept getting yourself in position, but second shots and (16) turnovers really hurt us,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Patterson finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. Pat Connaughton led Notre Dame (15-15, 6-11 ACC) with 19 points.
The Panthers had a 38-22 edge on the boards, including 14 from Talib Zanna.
“You always love seeing good rebounding because it’s such an effort stat, and that’s why we’re so good at it,” Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said.
Pittsburgh (22-7, 10-6) had 21 offensive rebounds and 21 second-chance points.
“Our perimeter guys were our leading rebounders,” Brey said. Guard Steve Vasturia led the team with six rebounds. “As good as our big guys were Wednesday (in a win against Georgia Tech), it was a tough night for them today.”
Pittsburgh’s biggest rebound was its final one. The Panthers held an 83-80 lead and decided to foul Atkins on purpose with 2.8 seconds remaining. He made the first and intentionally missed the second. Patterson grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to spoil Notre Dame’s senior day.
The Irish honored their four seniors before the game. But down the stretch, it was all about the freshmen.
V.J. Beachem sent the game to overtime with a three-pointer in the right corner with 7.7 seconds left in regulation.
Vasturia, another freshman, scored Notre Dame’s first 10 points in overtime. He made a three-pointer to get the Irish within 76-75 with 37.5 seconds left.
“I was just trying to make an impact,” said Vasturia, who had 15 points.
It then became a game of free throws and Pittsburgh went 9 of 10 in the final 37 seconds.
“It’s tough going out this way, but I think more than anything I’m proud of my team, the way they fought back,” said Atkins, who had 17 points and nine assists. “They never gave up. We got down a few times in this game and we never let up.
“For me, that shows a little bit of my leadership. I’m proud of the way we fought back, but I definitely wanted a win.”