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Irish to face sold-out arena crowd against 6-17 Pittsburgh

Joe Hettler | Friday, February 20, 2004

Muffet McGraw has 12,000 reasons to be concerned about Saturday’s game against Pittsburgh, and none of them include the actual Panthers basketball team.

As part of its “Pack the Peterson” promotion, Pittsburgh sold tickets to the game against Notre Dame for $1. The tickets are sold out.

“You’re always concerned when you go into a setting like that,” McGraw said. “We haven’t played that many games this year in that type of environment. Purdue and Tennessee were about as close as we could get to simulating that. Hopefully, some of those people at the game will be Irish fans.”

Notre Dame (16-8, 9-3 in the Big East) looks to win its second straight road game for only the second time this season against a Pittsburgh (6-17, 2-11 Big East) team that lost 97-42 to Connecticut Tuesday night. The Panthers are in second-to-last place in the Big East and have lost nine straight games dating back to Jan. 14.

Notre Dame is in sole position of second-place in the conference, two games behind Connecticut. Notre Dame has two difficult games against Miami and Rutgers next week before ending the season with Syracuse. The Irish beat Miami earlier this year on the road and have not faced Rutgers.

“We still have four tough games to go, starting with Pittsburgh on Saturday,” McGraw said. “We’ve got back up to the No. 2 seed, but now we have to protect it by doing our part and winning these last four games.”

The Irish beat St. John’s on the road Tuesday 69-56 behind a double-double from Le’Tania Severe and 15 points from Jeneka Joyce. The Irish are 13-4 in their last 17 games and continue to build an impressive NCAA Tournament resume. Six of Notre Dame’s wins have come against top-25 opponents.

LaToya Kincaid and her 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds per game lead Pittsburgh. Besides Kincaid, no other Panther player averages more than eight points per game. Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled all season, tallying just 57.2 points per game.

Pittsburgh is led by first-year coach Agnus Berenato who joined the Panthers in 2003 after 15 seasons as head coach at Georgia Tech. She was 223-209 for the Yellow Jackets during her tenure as coach. Her first season at Pittsburgh has been a difficult one, as the Panthers have struggled in Big East play.

The 12,000 fans in the Peterson Center will look for the win against the Irish at 2 p.m.