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Irish avoid Panther upset

Joe Hettler | Monday, February 23, 2004

When lowly Pittsburgh thought of an upset, two Notre Dame seniors took over.Le’Tania Severe stole a pass and made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to clinch the win, and Jeneka Joyce had her third consecutive career-high performance as the Irish survived 72-68 over Pittsburgh Saturday.Joyce had 16 points on five 3-pointers and Severe finished with seven points to help Notre Dame improve to 17-8 and 10-3 in the Big East. The Irish have struggled on the road all season, and did so again Saturday before 7,814 at the Peterson Center. They led 40-37 at halftime and extended that advantage to as many as 14 in the second half, before seeing Pittsburgh crawl back to take a one-point lead with 2:18 remaining. The Panthers’ LaToya Kincaid led all scorers with 24 points on 9-of-17 shooting. She also grabbed six rebounds in 34 minutes of play.”Pittsburgh played hard, with a lot of emotion, Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw said. “And we had no answers for Kincaid.”Notre Dame was led by forward Jacqueline Batteast who had 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals. She did miss six of nine free throws as the Irish converted just 15-of-28 from the line. Courtney LaVere added 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting in just 18 minutes. Notre Dame shot 56.5 percent from the field for the game.The Irish trailed 35-32 with 1:58 left in the first half before Joyce drained back-to-back 3-pointers. Forward Crystal Erwin added a lay-up giving Notre Dame a 40-35 lead late in the half. Erwin made all three of her field goals to finish with nine points.Notre Dame started the second half on a 10-0 run, capped off by a Batteast lay-up. They extended that lead to 55-41 with 16:01 left before Pittsburgh started chipping away. The Panthers took advantage of solid contributions from Jennifer Brown and Katie Histed in the comeback. Brown scored all 12 of her points in the second half and Histed finished with 11. Pittsburgh had a promotion before the game called “Pack the Peterson” where they sold all tickets to the game for just $1. All 12,000 seats sold out, but fewer than 8,000 showed up – which was still larger than the typical Pittsburgh crowd.Notre Dame has Miami, Rutgers and Syracuse remaining before the Big East Tournament. The Irish beat the Hurricanes 59-50 in Coral Gables Jan. 28. Miami is 20-4 and 9-4 in the conference. Rutgers is 16-9 overall, 8-5 in the Big East and 5-1 at home this season. Notre Dame travels to face the Scarlet Knights Saturday. The Irish then finish the season at home against a Syracuse team they beat 64-35 Jan. 21.