PITTSBURGH -- "Only he didn't say 'fudge.'"
With his team trailing 19-3, shooting zero percent, and posing as dead-ringers for the disinterested group that showed up and accepted their whooping in Providence 48 hours earlier, Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey decided to take a chance, offering a few choice words to game official John Gaffney.
It paid off.
Down 16 with just over seven minutes remaining in the first half, and as a result of a technical foul called against, and assuredly drawn purposefully by Brey, Notre Dame responded to its coach's challenge, going on a 16-3 run to end the half, and on what amounted to a 26-9 streak to take its first lead, 29-28 with just under 14 minutes remaining.
From there formally ice-cold Jerian Grant took over, hitting on a fadeaway jumper, a trio of three-point shots and assisting on two other buckets -- this after an 0-8 shooting effort to start -- in a 51-42 victory at the Petersen Events Center.
Notre Dame won as underdogs of 10.5 points, the same point spread deficit it faced in its last trip to Pittsburgh, a 56-51 win over the then No. 2 Panthers in 2011.
The Irish missed 18 of their first 19 shots but held Pittsburgh without a three-point field goal during the contest (0-8) and enjoyed a 36-22 edge on the glass with senior big men Jack Cooley (9) and Tom Knight (8) corralling most of the Panthers' misses. Notre Dame did not allow a second-chance point by the Panthers despite 30 missed field goals.
Cooley and Grant both scored 13 points while Eric Atkins added 10 with 7 assists. Pat Connaughton scored just 7 but it was the sophomore's back-to-back three-point shots that trimmed Pittsburgh's deficit from 19-3 to 19-9 that helped turn the tide late in the first half.
Senior guard Tray Woodall led Pittsburgh with 11. He was the only Panthers player to reach double figures.
Notre Dame shot just 38 percent in the win but improved to 21-6 overall, 9-5 in Big East play and broke a tie with 8-6 Pittsburgh to move to within a half-game of fourth place Louisville (9-4). The top four teams in the league's final standings earn a bye to the conference quarterfinals in the Big East Tournament.
The Irish outscored the Panthers 48-21 after Brey's technical foul.
Notre Dame has beaten the Panthers in five straight with Pittsburgh ranked among the nation's Top 20 in all five matchups.