SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- Chris Thomas evened the score with Brandin Knight.
Thomas fed freshman Torin Francis for the game-winning layup with just under a second left as No. 10 Notre Dame posted a thrilling 66-64 Big East Conference victory over fourth-ranked Pittsburgh.
Thomas was outplayed badly by Knight, the reigning conference Player of the Year, on January 6 in a 72-55 victory for Pittsburgh (16-3, 6-2 Big East West). Knight scored 12 points in that one and limited Thomas to five on 2-of-15 shooting.
The tables were turned in this one as Thomas led all scorers with 24 points and Knight missed his first eight shots. But Knight finally connected on a clutch 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to knot the contest at 64-64.
Notre Dame (19-4, 7-2) decided against calling a timeout as Thomas dribbled the ball near the center circle as he was guarded heavily by Knight. Thomas finally started his move with six seconds to go and beat Knight off the dribble just enough to fire a pass inside to Francis, who banked home his layup with six-tenths of a second to go.
"It was a great opportunity, that is the most that I can say," Thomas said. "Torin had a better shots than I did. Brandin Knight was saying, 'This is the way it is supposed to be.' He's the leader on his team and I'm the leader on my team. It was just a chance to get revenge against him."
"There was no doubt what we were going to do there," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "We were going to take the ball down and go overtime or win it at the end."
The Fighting Irish knocked away the Panthers' inbound pass at the buzzer and the fans stormed the court at the Joyce Convocation Center.
"When we were taking the ball out, I told him he cheated because he was supposed to take the shot, we were talking about him taking the shot," Knight said. "He was just saying it was 'me and you' and he cheated in the past."
The win marked the fourth of the season for Notre Dame against a top-10 opponent, including a one-week stretch in December when it knocked off Marquette, Maryland and Texas. The Fighting Irish moved into a tie for first place in the West Division with Syracuse and won their 15th straight home game.
It is the first time Notre Dame has beaten four top-10 opponents since the 1977-78 season.
"I'm very proud of our team," Brey said. "We beat a good basketball team today. They are a great defensive team and I'm very proud of our guys because we never gave up."
Julius Page returned for Pittsburgh after missing Tuesday's game with Providence due to an ankle injury. Page, who had started 77 straight games, scored 19 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
The Panthers held an overwhelming 47-22 edge on the glass in the first meeting but the Irish stayed close and had a more manageable deficit on the boards, 33-26. Notre Dame managed to offset the rebounding with a 36-28 edge in points in the paint.
"They knew that if they were going to come back they would have to outrebound us (in the second half), and it happened," Page said. "We allowed that to happen by not being as aggressive as we were in the first half."
Pitt built a 41-33 halftime lead behind 13 points from Chevy Troutman and Ontario Lett opened the scoring 17 seconds into the second half as the Panthers took their largest lead. The lead was still 10 after a layup on the fast break by Jaron Brown for a 45-35 advantage.
"It's a very tough loss for us against a very good team and in a great atmosphere," Panthers coach Ben Howland said. "We had a 10-point lead in the second half, but they came back."
Notre Dame scored nine straight points in the game's most critical stretch, holding Pitt scoreless for nearly 4 1/2 minutes. The Panthers missed five straight shots in that stretch before a 3-pointer from Donatas Zavackas stopped the drought for a 48-44 lead with 14:15 remaining.
Thomas scored four points and Torrian Jones split a pair at the line to cap a 7-0 burst that supplied Notre Dame with its first lead of the second half at 53-52 at the midway point.
"We can put up some points quickly and since we played good defense, especially in the second half, and that was the turning point in the game," Irish guard Matt Carroll said.
Pitt shot 56 percent (16-of-29) in the first half, but cooled to 35 percent (8-of-34) in the second. Notre Dame heated up to shoot 59 percent (13-of-22) in the second half.
Carroll nailed four 3-pointers and had 14 points and six assists and no other player for Notre Dame scored in double figures. Thomas scored 14 points in the first half and finished 11-of-21 from the floor.
Troutman finished with 16 points and Brown netted 10 for Pitt, which fell to 4-3 on the road and 0-6 at the Joyce Center. Knight made up for his poor shooting with eight assists.