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    Irish Surrender Lead In Loss To No. 4 Pittsburgh

    FIGHTING IRISH Chris Thomas heads up court in the second half.  Thomas led the Irish with 23 points.
    FIGHTING IRISH
    Chris Thomas heads up court in the second half. Thomas led the Irish with 23 points.
    FIGHTING IRISH

    Feb 7, 2004

    Box Score |  Quotes |  Notes

    By TOM COYNE
    AP Sports Writer

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) - Pittsburgh refused to panic when it fell way behind Notre Dame.

    Carl Krauser scored 19 points, Julius Page had 17 and the fourth-ranked Panthers overcame a 13-point first-half deficit to win 66-58 Saturday night.

    Pittsburgh made just one of its first eight shots and trailed 15-2 early in the game. But Krauser hit a 3-pointer to get the Panthers going and Page added a driving layup down the lane, setting the stage for a quick comeback.

    "The game was basically decided by our toughness," said Krauser, who finished with four assists and six rebounds. "We wanted to keep locking down on defense and get the ball inside."

    The Panthers didn't have much trouble doing that with Torin Francis, Notre Dame's best big man, sitting out most of the game with back spasms. Krauser and Page drove down the lane repeatedly, and Jaron Brown added 11 points.

    The victory ended a five-game losing streak for Pitt (22-1, 8-1 Big East) at Notre Dame. The Irish (10-9, 4-5) have lost three straight, six of their last eight, and are within a loss of .500 in February for the first time since the 1998-99 season, John MacLeod's last season as coach.

    Chris Quinn, who was 0-for-8 shooting for the Irish, said he was impressed by Pitt's composure.

    "We got close to them at the end and it didn't faze them one bit," he said.





    "We got close to them at the end and it didn't faze them one bit."




     

     

    Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said the Panthers didn't panic because they believe in each other.

    "That's what got us through in the face of adversity when things got tough," he said.

    After starting slowly, the Panthers made 11 of 18 shots (61 percent) the rest of the first half. The Irish, meanwhile, who went 6-of-8 to start the game, were only 7-of-20 (35 percent) the rest of the half and led 32-26 at halftime.

    "To play the way we did in the first half and only be down six points, we knew that once we got it going they couldn't stop us," Page said.

    Coach Mike Brey reacts to a call.


    In the second half, Krauser drove the lane for a layup and hit a pair of 3-pointers, and the Panthers used a 17-4 run to take a 43-36 lead when Brown hit a 3-pointer with 14:43 left.

    The Panthers led 59-52 when Page hit a 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:31 left. The Irish cut the lead to 59-56 after Tom Timmermans made a pair of free throws and Jones faked out Brown, causing him to fall, before hitting an open 10-foot jumper with 58 seconds left.

    But the Panthers made seven of 10 free throws down the stretch to hold on.

    Chris Thomas, who was averaging just 11 points the past six games, broke out of his slump, scoring 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting. But it wasn't enough for the Irish, who had only one other player in double figures - Torrian Jones with 12 points.

    Thomas was disappointed the Irish didn't play better.

    "We wanted to establish ourselves at home," he said.

    The Irish, who dropped to 7-5 at home, are 0-5 against ranked teams this season and appear to be a long shot to make their fourth straight NCAA tournament.

    "I'm just trying to get into the Big East tournament," coach Mike Brey said. "You have to make that thing the last time I checked."

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