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Encouragement arrives for Pitt women's basketball team

Not long after the Pitt women's historic, 120-44 loss at No. 2 Notre Dame, Oakland Catholic senior Chrissy Berenato thought she should do something.

She drove to the Pitt campus late Tuesday night, found the cars of all the Pitt coaches — including her mother, head coach Agnus — and placed notes of encouragement on the windshields. Driving home after returning from South Bend, Ind., Agnus Berenato thought campus police had issued her a ticket, but what she found helped put in perspective the worst loss in Pitt history.

"It said, 'Mom, I love you. I am proud of you, Mom. You are the best,' " Agnus said.

Coach Berenato believes her team, which has lost five in a row, will recover from the 76-point loss that marked the first time in 10 years a Pitt opponent reached the century mark.

"I don't think they have a choice," she said. "I am sure you have a day when you have a bad day in the office, but you have to go back in the office."

Berenato is encouraged because her players, whom she found huddled on the floor of the locker room after the game, used their day off Wednesday to lift weights and watch video.

"It's OK," she said. "We're going to be OK."

Still, the loss underscored the amount of work the Panthers (8-11, 0-6 Big East) have ahead of them.

"They were tremendously affected," Berenato said. "A loss is a loss whether you lose by one or 100, (but) everybody says that until it happens to you."

Tuesday night wasn't a total loss for the Berenato family. Chrissy's older sister Clare had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Seton Hill in a 76-74 overtime victory against West Liberty. Like Chrissy, Clare's first thought after the game was to reach out to her mother.

"She texted me and said 'Hang in there,' " Agnus said. "She never mentioned her game."

> > Duquesne's Ron Everhart, Pitt's Jamie Dixon and West Virginia's Bob Huggins are among 48 coaches participating in the Coaches' Charity Challenge in which Infiniti will make a donation of $100,000 to the winner's favorite charity.

Fan participation began Wednesday on espn.com, with coaches paired against one another in four brackets. The winning coach and charity will be announced March 9.

Everhart is representing Baskets for Braden, a fundraiser for Juvenile Diabetes research. Dixon is participating on behalf of the Maggie Dixon Foundation. Huggins has the Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Endowment Fund. All charities are guaranteed at least $5,000.

District schedule

MEN

Robert Morris at Fairleigh Dickinson

When/where: 7 p.m. Thursday/Rothman Center, Teaneck, N.J.

Records: Robert Morris 13-6, 4-2 NEC; Fairleigh Dickinson 1-16, 0-6

Series: Robert Morris leads, 34-30

Of note: Since a 10-3 start, Robert Morris has dropped three of six.

Players to watch

Robert Morris: Coron Williams, So., G — Second on the team in scoring (11.6) and hitting 41.9 percent on 3-pointers.

Fairleigh Dickinson: Melquan Bolding, Jr., G — Transfer from Duquesne leads the team in scoring (14.5).

22-Illinois at Penn State

When/where: 9 p.m. Thursday/Bryce Jordan Center

Records: Illinois 15-3, 4-1 Big Ten; Penn State 9-10, 1-5

Series: Illinois leads, 24-12

Of note: Penn State is 3-8 since the end of November.

Players to watch

Penn State: Tim Frazier, Jr., G — Leads the team with an 18.2 scoring average.

Illinois: Brandon Paul, Jr., G — Scored 43 points Jan. 10 in a 79-74 upset of No. 6 Ohio State.

WOMEN

22-Penn State at Illinois

When/where: 8 p.m. Thursday/Assembly Hall, Champaign, Ill.

Records: Penn State 13-4, 3-2 Big Ten; Illinois 6-12, 0-5

Series: Penn State leads, 27-14

Of note: Penn State has lost twice since Dec. 30 -- both Big Ten home games.

Players to watch

Penn State: Maggie Lucas, So., G — Last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year leads team at 20.4 points per game.

Illinois: Karisma Penn, Jr., F — Leads the team at 14.9 points per game.

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