Feb. 3, 2001
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Although the start wasn't very good, the finish was just what No. 23 Notre Dame needed to extend its winning streak to five games.
Ricardo Greer was unable to start for the first time this season because he developed back spasms just before the game. Greer, who averages almost 33 minutes and 16.3 points per game, played 16 minutes and scored nine points.
Pitt coach Ben Howland said he got the news on Greer just minutes before the Panthers took the floor.
"It's a tough break when you know your best player can't start," Howland said.
Pitt, which upset nationally ranked Georgetown and Seton Hall last month, looked like it was ready to knock off the Fighting Irish, too. The Panthers jumped out to a 21-10 lead 6:55 into the game.
"They got out of the gate on us," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Pittsburgh is very methodical and early on we followed them around. Later in the game, we did a much better job of reacting."
The Fighting Irish also did a better job with shot selection and accuracy. Notre Dame (14-5, 5-2 in Big East) broke out of a shooting slump that saw the Irish shoot under 45 percent for six consecutive games. They were 27-for-50 for 54 percent.
What pleased Brey most was the defensive play and Notre Dame's ability to withstand the tough start in a hostile environment.
"We have some momentum now," Brey said. "Now we know who we are and we can just continue to fine-tune. We have a different look and body language right now. We feel good."
After falling behind by 11 in the first half, Notre Dame went on a 13-0 run
to take a 23-21 lead. Pitt (12-8, 4-5), which went 7:41 without scoring, has
alternated wins and losses the past seven games.
Pittsburgh got within four with 13:23 left in the second half before Notre Dame answered with a 9-2 run that included seven points from Graves. He hit Notre Dame's only successful 3-pointer in that stretch.
Graves doesn't start for the Irish, and Brey thinks watching the first part of the game helps him.
"He is playing with so much confidence right now," Brey said. "He has been relishing his role. It's great for him to see things from the bench early on and come into the game and make an impact."
Ryan Humphrey scored 16 points for the Fighting Irish and added a game-high nine rebounds.
Murphy had his 70th consecutive game in double figures while Graves established a season high for points. He scored 23 against Canisius on Dec. 19.
Donatas Zavackas led Pittsburgh with 22 points and was 5-of-6 on 3-point attempts. Isaac Hawkins and Julius Page scored 10 points each.
Pitt announced that Greer was sent for MRI tests immediately after the game.