Pittsburgh, PA -- Madison Cable walked a tightrope in the third quarter to keep the game balanced, while Brianna Turner shifted momentum in the fourth to secure a 65-55 win for No. 3 Notre Dame over the University of Pittsburgh at the Peterson Events Center in Pittsburgh, Penn. Simultaneously, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw collected her 800th career win in stunning fashion.
Facing a 49-49 stalemate into the final 10 minutes, the Fighting Irish (13-1, 2-0) needed an explosive fourth quarter to overcome a persistent group of Panthers (8-6, 0-1).
Turner proved to be a game-changer down the stretch, scoring 10 points in the final period, as the Irish outscored the Panthers 16-6.
Previously, Stasha Carey had kept Turner at bay. Carey only allowed her to score six points in the first, four points in the second and zero in the third. However, after a scoreless 10 minutes, Turner made up for it in the final period as Carey received her fourth foul and sent Turner to the line with 6:38 remaining and fouled out with 3:50 left to give Turner another perfect trip to the line.
Turner's fourth quarter heroics paved the way to a game-high 20 points.
"I credit Stasha Carey for the defensive effort today," University of Pittsburgh coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "(She was) hindered again by foul trouble, but with her off the floor, we didn't have the length to guard Brianna Turner and the difference down the stretch was that had that go-to player."
Down the stretch, the Panthers tried to rely on the quick play of guard Yacine Diop, who scored all six of the team's points that quarter and led the Panthers in scoring overall with 16 points. But, Notre Dame's production was just too overwhelming.
"We tried to play through Yacine down the stretch as that go-to player," McConnell-Serio said. "I thought she was effective at trying to get to the basket, creating shots and trying to make things happen. Our players made shots, but through the last couple minutes, we had some turnovers and missed shots that led to some scoring opportunities for them."
The free throw line was also key for the Irish as they went 6-of-8 in the fourth, as Turner hit 4-of-5 and Cable went a perfect 2-for-2. On the game, they made 23-of-29 to Pitt's 8-of-11. Cable paved the way hitting 9-of-11 from the charity stripe. Her most productive quarter commenced over the third to keep Notre Dame in the game.
"When you look at the stat sheet we competed in every aspect except at the free-throw line. We were 8-of-11, and they were 23-of-29," McConnell-Serio said. "I'm so proud of the way our players played, and I hope we get this effort every night and the focus we need to play each and every team we play in the ACC."
Notre Dame carried a slight advantage into the half; however, the 33-31 score reflected the Fighting Irish's very narrow edge not only in scoring, but in overall play as well.
The University of Pittsburgh was only one point off the pace in the first two quarters, as Notre Dame claimed the final baskets of both 10 minute periods to maintain a small cushion at each break.
The Irish led 20-19, scoring on a perfect Lindsay Allen trip to the foul line with just under a minute remaining. Then finished the half with a two point lead, following an Arike Ogunbowale basket before the buzzer.
Notre Dame claimed the last shot of the third period as well; however, the period belonged to the Panthers, who started hot and held on to outscore the Irish by two points to balance the score.
The Panthers played to par through the first half, but put Notre Dame on the ropes early in the third quarter, jumping out on a 6-0 run the longest of the game to that point. Pitt pushed to its largest lead at 37-33 and maintained control for more than three minutes.
Cable cut Notre Dame's deficit to two points on a quick basket just before a two-minute drought commenced on nine empty possessions.
Cable knotted the score for the Irish from the charity stripe with 5:07 on the clock, but the tie was short-lived as Aysia Bugg knocked down a basket on the next possession to set the score at, 39-37.
Cable came through twice more for the Irish, first leveling the score and then regaining the lead after going 3-of-4 on two consecutive trips to the free-throw line. In less than two minutes, Cable led the Irish on a critical 7-2 run that brought them back from the early deficit. She finished the game second in scoring with 16 points.
Allen closed the third quarter with one final basket for Notre Dame to escape the period with an even, 49-49 score.
After stumbling in the first 10 minutes of the second half, the Irish wasted no time dominating the final 10 minutes. Although Pitt scored first, Norte Dame closed the game on a 12-2 run to finish with a 65-55 victory.
"All I asked these girls was to give us a chance to compete for 40 minutes and we came out in the beginning of the game and our starting lineup got us off to a great start," McConnell-Serio said. "They competed at both ends of the floor I thought."