Bottom-seeded Pittsburgh stuns Notre Dame in ACC Tourney

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Notre Dame’s “roller-coaster” women’s basketball season, as freshman Sam Brunelle frequently described it, derailed for the final time Wednesday evening with a stunning 67-65 loss to bottom-seeded Pittsburgh in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Freshman guard Dayshanette Harris hit a baseline jumper with 2.7 seconds left for the final count, then stole ND’s forecourt side inbound after a timeout to seal the Panthers’ victory.

No. 15 seed Pitt (5-25) entered the opening-round matchup with nine consecutive losses, all by double digits, while the recently surging, 10th-seeded Irish entered with three straight wins and six in their last nine games, capped by Sunday’s 70-67 victory at No. 19 Florida State.

Harris — one of four freshman starters for the Panthers — scored 16 of her 20 points in the second half and was 5-of-5 from the field in the fourth quarter to go with 10 rebounds and three steals.

Sophomore Katlyn Gilbert, who led Notre Dame with 20 points and three takeaways, made a steal with 24 seconds left and went the distance for a 65-all count that marked the fifth tie of the fourth quarter.

Harris dribbled out much of the remainder of the clock before nailing her game-winner.

The Irish (13-18) closed with their worst record under 33-year head coach Muffet McGraw.

Her only other non-winning finish is 14-17 in 1991-92.

Grad transfer Destinee Walker and Brunelle, ND’s two leading scorers on the season at 14.5 and 14.1 points per game heading in, both struggled through rough shooting days.

Walker missed 14 of her 17 shots from the field, but did add a 6-for-6 effort at the line for 12 points. Brunelle finished 3-of-10 from the field with a pair of triples on her way to 10 points, but never scored in the second half, going 0-for-4.

Junior center Mikki Vaughn led all players with 11 rebounds for the Irish to go with nine points and three blocked shots.

Grad transfer point guard Marta Sniezek closed her one-year ND career with 11 points, her second-highest total of the season, and three assists before fouling out with 36 seconds remaining.

Sniezek’s driving layup at 2:54 to go brought the Irish to within 65-63.

Walker followed with a steal, but missed a go-ahead trey try, the first of five straight empty possessions by ND.

Notre Dame roared at the start of the game, jumping to a 7-0 advantage and eventually pushing its lead to a high of 21-12 in the opening minute of the second quarter, but Pittsbugh rallied with some unusually hot shooting.

Sophomore reserve Ismini Prapa converted 4-of-4 outside the arc in the opening half against the Irish zone. She’d gone into the day 8-of-29 on the season with a 1.5 scoring average and had never made more than two triples in a game.

The Panthers, who were hitting 28.4% on the season from distance with a norm of five makes per game, closed at 9-of-16 this time.

Pitt led 34-33 at halftime, then took its largest lead at 49-41 with 3:15 left in the third quarter.

ND bounced back to twice take two-point leads early in the fourth period.

The Panthers responded by twice grabbing four-point leads, the second being 65-61 at 3:04 to go, before suffering through five straight empty possessions of their own.

Junior Gabbie Green scored 14 points and made 4-of-5 on 3-pointers for Pittsburgh, while Prapa and freshman Amber Brown tallied 12 points apiece.

Freshman post Rita Igbokwe added nine rebounds and four blocked shots in 23 minutes.

Pitt committed 22 turnovers to 15 by the Irish, with ND putting together a 17-6 advantage in points off turnovers.

Notre Dame also hit 13-of-15 free throws to the Panthers’ 2-of-4, but the Irish were just 24-of-64 from the field for 37.5% with four 3s to Pitt’s 28-of-61 for 45.9% with nine.

The teams were meeting for the third time this season. ND won 60-52 at Pittsburgh on Jan. 2, then added a 74-52 home win Feb. 9 in a game that saw Harris sidelined by injury for much of the second half.

This time, though, the Panthers ended their 12-game losing streak to the Irish, beating them for the first time since February 2009.

Notre Dame’s only route into the NCAA Tournament was to win the ACC event. Instead the program’s streak of 24 straight NCAA Tourneys comes to an end.

PITTSBURGH (5-25): Igbokwe 0-7 0-0 0, Brown 6-10 0-0 12, Green 5-9 0-0 14, Harris 9-17 2-2 20, Hayford 3-9 0-0 7, Judkins 1-2 0-2 2, Knight 0-3 0-0 0, Prapa 4-4 0-0 12, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 28-61 2-4 67

NOTRE DAME (13-18): Brunelle 3-10 2-2 10, Vaughn 3-7 3-4 9, Gilbert 9-16 2-2 20, Sniezek 5-12 0-1 11, Walker 3-17 6-6 12, Cosgrove 1-1 0-0 3, Cole 0-1 0-0 0, Team 0-0 0-0 0, Totals 24-64 13-15 65

Pittsburgh 12 22 17 16 — 67

Notre Dame 16 17 14 18 — 65

3-Point Goals_Pittsburgh 9-16 (Green 4-5, Harris 0-2, Hayford 1-5, Prapa 4-4), Notre Dame 4-16 (Brunelle 2-6, Sniezek 1-2, Walker 0-7, Cosgrove 1-1). Assists_Pittsburgh 14 (Harris 3), Notre Dame 10 (Brunelle 3). Fouled Out_Pittsburgh Prapa, Notre Dame Sniezek. Rebounds_Pittsburgh 40 (Igbokwe 6-9), Notre Dame 34 (Vaughn 5-11). Total Fouls_Pittsburgh 18, Notre Dame 15. Technical Fouls_None. A_0.

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