March 5, 2005
SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Chris Taft had a career-high 26 points and Pittsburgh scored 56 points in the paint to beat Notre Dame 85-77 on Saturday.
Chevon Troutman had 20 points and Carl Krauser added 15 for the 24th-ranked Panthers (20-7, 10-6), who posted their fourth straight 20-win season, clinched fifth place in the Big East and first-round bye in the league tournament.
The Irish (17-9, 9-7), who lost for the third time in four games, fell to sixth place to miss out on the first round and hurt their hopes for an NCAA tournament berth.
The Panthers were simply too much for the Irish inside, shooting 57 percent for the game - their second best performance of the season.
Colin Falls, who scored a career-high 28 points with a school-record tying eight 3-pointers, gave Notre Dame a 43-42 lead 5 minutes into the second half on a pair of free throws. But the Panthers went on a 13-0 run, with Taft scoring seven points. Except for a free throw by Taft, all the points were scored on baskets inside.
Mark McCarroll capped the run with a rebound basket - two of 13 second-half points by the Panthers - as Pitt opened a 58-43 lead.
The Irish cut the lead to 60-56 when Chris Thomas made a pair of free throws with 6:50 left. They had a chance to get closer, but Falls missed a 3 and Thomas missed a 15-foot jumper. Thomas missed his first 10 shots and finished 2-of-13 with 12 points.
Pitt, which outscored the Irish 12-0 on fastbreak points, then scored five quick points. Antonio Graves, who had 11 points, scored on an acrobatic, left-handed layup. Troutman added a basket and free throw.
After Thomas made his first shot, a 10-foot jumper from the baseline, the Panthers put the game away with a 7-0 run.
Taft added 11 rebounds and four blocks in his second straight strong game after playing poorly in Pitt's recent three-game losing streak.
Torin Francis had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish, who led 35-32 at halftime.
AP Sports Writer