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Women’s Basketball: Calling all captains

Ken Fowler | Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Notre Dame will honor its seniors and play for an improved conference tournament seed when it hosts Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. in the Joyce Center tonight.

The Irish are fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid and also can improve their seed in the upcoming Big East Tournament in Hartford, Conn., with a win. Depending on the outcome of this week’s conference games, Notre Dame can finish anywhere from No. 8 to No. 11.

“Playing one last time on the JACC floor is going to be awesome, but everyone on the team knows what’s at stake,” said point guard Megan Duffy, who will be honored alongside fellow senior co-captain Courtney LaVere before the game on Senior Night. “We need to win if we want to get in the NCAA Tournament.”

The Irish enter the contest fresh off a dramatic 75-66 overtime win in Cincinnati Saturday. The Bearcats took a two-point lead with 2.4 seconds remaining, but LaVere found guard Lindsay Schrader on the ensuing inbounds pass. Schrader tipped the ball to fellow guard Tulyah Gaines, who hit a running layup as the buzzer sounded.

The win was the second of the week for the Irish, who beat West Virginia Tuesday.

“It’s nice to put two games together and get two wins in a row,” said Duffy, who scored 10 in the extra session to put the game away. “We’ve been on so many losing streaks this year. But we’re in good position for where we need to be to beat Pittsburgh and we need to win a few games in the Big East Tournament.”

The Panthers have no such momentum.

Pittsburgh (18-8, 9-6) lost to Rutgers Saturday in its worst offensive performance of the year. The Panthers scored a season-low 50 points and shot just 30 percent on field goals.

Sophomore center Mercedes Walker leads Pittsburgh in scoring this season, averaging 17.6 points a game on 49 percent shooting from the floor.

She is also a force to be reckoned with under the basket with 9.3 rebounds per contest.

Junior guard Mallorie Winn is Pittsburgh’s primary weapon on the perimeter. She averages 15.2 points per game and shoots 36 percent (48-of-134) from three-point range.

Xenia Stewart, a freshman guard, is the only other player on the Panthers averaging in double digits. Stewart, at 6-foot, plays on the interior much of the game and averages 5 rebounds a night.

The 6-foot-3 LaVere will be the key on the inside for the Irish to stopping Pittsburgh’s inside attack. LaVere scored 17 points and connected on 8-of-11 field goals against Cincinnati.

“I’m really proud of Courtney, the way she’s stepped up her game these past six or seven [contests],” Duffy said. “From the point of scoring and on the block, and leadership in the locker room, it’s invaluable.”

Notes:

u Duffy was named Big East player of the week Monday for the second time in her career. She averaged 19.5 points and four rebounds a game in Notre Dame’s two victories last week.

u Senior day celebrations will begin approximately 20 minutes before the opening tip.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early, as the team will honor Duffy and LaVere, senior video assistant Janelle Tretter and senior managers Meghan Callahan and Luke Hoover.