SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- Apparently, Chris Taft did want that extra day of rest before the start of the Big East Conference tournament.
Taft scored a career-high 26 points and Chevy Troutman added 22 as No. 24 Pittsburgh captured a first-round bye in the upcoming league tournament with an 85-77 victory over Notre Dame.
With both teams entering the game tied for fifth in the conference at 9-6, an opening-round bye was at stake. The Panthers will face No. 22 Villanova on Thursday and Notre Dame, which fell to sixth in the standings, will play an opening-round game Wednesday.
Coming off a dominating victory at fifth-ranked Boston College on Monday, the Panthers (20-7, 10-6 Big East) overcame a school-record tying eight 3-pointers and a career-best 28 points by Colin Falls by hammering the ball inside.
Taft shot 12-of-17 from the field with 11 rebounds and Troutman went 8-of-12 from the stripe with nine boards for Pittsburgh, which outscored Notre Dame in the paint, 56-24.
After Falls made a pair from the line for a 43-42 lead with 16:34 to play, Taft scored seven points during a 13-0 run that made it 55-43 with 11:19 remaining. Dennis Latimore then made a jumper - Notre's Dame first field goal in nearly seven minutes - but Taft completed a three-point play for a 58-45 cushion with 10:31 left.
The Fighting Irish (17-10, 9-7) moved within 58-54 with 7:26 to play on a 9-0 run, but Taft wrapped a dunk and a follow shot around a jumper by Antonio Graves and five points by Troutman for a 69-60 advantage with 4:41 left.
Carl Krauser scored 15 points and handed out 11 assists and Graves chipped in 11 for Pittsburgh, which dropped their only matchup with Villanova, 80-72, on the road February 20.
Falls shot 8-of-14 from the arc and Torin Francis totaled 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Irish, who went cold in the second half, shooting 37 percent (14-of-38), including 3-of-16 from the arc.
Chris Thomas and Chris Quinn, Notre Dame's top two scorers, mustered just 17 points on 3-of-17 shooting. Thomas, playing in his final game at the Joyce Center, had seven assists, but missed all eight of his 3-point attempts.