PITTSBURGH – Notre Dame senior guard Steve Vasturia spent the better part of two hours trying – and failing – to stay out of foul trouble against Pittsburgh. Trying – and failing – to get into an offensive rhythm. Trying – and failing – to help the 24th-ranked Irish shake the energized Panthers.
Until the end, that is.
Then Vasturia did what coach Mike Brey expects his co-captain to do whenever the stakes are raised. He stayed calm. He didn’t panic. And he made big shot after big shot, including the one that gave the Irish another high-wire victory over Pitt. Vasturia’s 3-pointer from the wing with 2.5 seconds left in overtime lifted Notre Dame to a 78-77 victory in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener for both schools.
The Panthers took a 77-75 lead on a runner by Jamel Artis with 41 seconds to play. Vasturia missed a shot but grabbed his own rebound with 21 seconds left, allowing the Irish to reset. Point guard Matt Farrell drove the lane and stumbled but flung it to Vasturia in the corner. Vasturia pump faked Pitt’s Sheldon Jeter out of the way, took a step to his right and made the 3-pointer right in front of the Notre Dame bench to quiet a raucous Petersen Events Center.
"You’ve just got to keep coming back to him," Brey said. "I thought when he got a clean look I’d have been shocked if it didn’t go down because we’ve seen him make so many."
Vasturia went 1 of 6 from the field during regulation but hit two free throws with 25 seconds left to send it to the extra session and scored eight of Notre Dame’s 10 points in overtime.
Bonzie Colson led the Irish (12-2, 1-0) with 21 points and 14 rebounds. Farrell added 15 points for Notre Dame, which won its sixth straight overtime game. The Irish are 14-3 in their last 17 games pushed beyond regulation.
"Our veterans were already talking about it, ‘Fellas, this is what we do,’" Brey said about the huddle before overtime began. "It’s a great psychological advantage for us."
Artis and Michael Young finished with 25 points each for Pitt (11-3, 0-1), which appeared in control after a layup by Jeter gave the Panthers a 75-70 lead early in overtime. Colson hit a layup before Vasturia made a 3-pointer to tie it to set up a taut final minute.
"Obviously, when it becomes a one-possession game, you need to come up with a loose ball, you need to come up with a rebound," Pitt coach Kevin Stallings said. "We’re very disappointed. It’s a game we felt like we could have won."