Notre Dame and USF both improved to 3-0 with wins Wednesday night, while Pittsburgh suffered a rare nonconference setback at home in its bid for a 3-0 start.
The Irish were without starting guard Eric Atkins (illness) in their game against Sam Houston State last night, but freshman Pat Connaughton filled in capably with 24 points in Notre Dame's 74-41 win at Purcell Pavilion. In fact, Connaughton personally outscored the Bearkats in the first half, with 17 points to help the Irish take a 38-16 halftime lead. Notre Dame was 10-of-19 from 3-point range and wasn't challenged in the second half on its way to its third win of the season.
USF, meanwhile, played its third straight home game in a different venue, but showed no ill effects in a 73-43 win against Florida Southern at the Lakeland Center. The Bulls raced to a 33-16 halftime lead after holding the Mocs to 18-percent shooting in the first 20 minutes. Forward Augustus Gilchrist finished with a game-high 15 points, while guard Blake Nash added 13 points off the bench for USF, which is 3-0 for the second time in the last three years.
Pittsburgh was the only BIG EAST team to fall Wednesday as the Panthers suffered an 86-76 loss to Big West favorite Long Beach State at the Petersen Events Center. It was just the second loss for the Panthers to a nonconference opponent at the venue, dropping Pitt to 86-2 all-time in nonconference games there. Guard Ashton Gibbs led Pittsburgh with 20 points, but the Panthers couldn't slow down a Long Beach State team that shot 59.3 percent from the field and had a 25-5 edge in fast break points.
Five games dot Thursday's BIG EAST schedule, beginning with Seton Hall's matchup against 2010 Final Four participant Virginia Commonwealth at 5:30 ET as part of the DirecTV Charleston Classic. Connecticut hosts Maine at 7 p.m. at Gampel Pavilion, while West Virginia looks to rebound from its first loss of the season with a 7 p.m. tap against Alcorn State. Rutgers hosts Sacred Heart at 7:30, and St. John's takes on No. 15/16 Arizona in the semifinal round of the 2K Sports Classic at Madison Square Garden (9 p.m., ESPN2).