Ontario Lett scored 10 straight points to start No. 6 Pittsburgh's comeback in the first half, then used his size and muscle to power a 16-0 run in the second half as the host Panthers overwhelmed No. 5 Notre Dame, 72-55, last night.
Notre Dame, denied its fourth victory over a top 10 opponent, was held scoreless for nearly nine minutes as Pittsburgh turned a 42-38 deficit into a 54-42 lead with 9 minutes 12 seconds remaining.
Brandin Knight finished off three fast-break baskets during the run, one of them off a nice pass by Lett, and Chevy Troutman scored off a putback and a layup.
Knight had 12 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals, and he and Julius Page held Notre Dame's Chris Thomas to five points on 2-of-15 shooting. Thomas was averaging 17.4 points.
"I was sick to my gut all day about this game," Pittsburgh Coach Ben Howland said. "I'm relieved this is over."
Troutman had 12 points and 12 rebounds to key the Panthers' 51-30 rebounding edge in the Big East opener for both teams.
But it was Lett, a 6-foot-6 senior who says he much prefers to play against ranked teams than the easy opponents Pittsburgh (11-1) has mostly played until now, who did the most damage with a career-high 20 points and eight rebounds.
Matt Carroll had 31 points for the Fighting Irish (12-2).
Lett usually comes off the bench but, perhaps sensing the center had a big game in him, was given a rare start by Howland.
The victory was Pittsburgh's first over a ranked opponent this season -- the Panthers were ranked No. 2 until losing last week to Georgia -- and came over the Big East opponent that often gives them the most trouble.
Even while going 29-6 last season, the Panthers were swept in the season series by the Irish for a second straight season. Notre Dame's 56-53 victory at Pittsburgh on Jan. 12, 2001, was the Panthers' last home-court loss.
Only a few hours before game time, the Irish advanced to No. 5 for their highest ranking since being No. 4 in 1981. But, slowed by Pittsburgh's tight defense, the Irish never did find their three-point shooting touch.
"Pitt has everybody back and is very physical," Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. "They didn't get rattled and we did on the road. Our younger guys looked around a little bit."
* KANSAS 83, IOWA ST. 54: Nick Collison, playing in his home state for the last time, scored a career-high 31 points as the No. 14 Jayhawks, on the road, began defense of its Big 12 title.
With former Kansas star Danny Manning watching from behind the bench, the Jayhawks (10-3) won their 12th straight conference opener and extended their record winning streak in Big 12 regular season games to 21.
Manning was 0-4 against Iowa State in Ames, but he had plenty to enjoy on this trip as the Jayhawks dominated the Cyclones (10-2, 0-1) from the opening tip and built a 20-point lead eight minutes into the game.
It was Iowa State's worst loss at Hilton Coliseum, which opened in 1971. The largest margin had been 25 points.
Collison, a senior from Iowa Falls, was 11 of 15 from the field, including a three-pointer, in topping his previous best of 28 points. Keith Langford added 15 points for the Jayhawks and Aaron Miles 13.
Kansas played without leading rebounder Wayne Simien, who dislocated his right shoulder on Saturday.