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Last-place Lady Panthers are bracing for No. 2 Irish

| Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013, 10:58 p.m.

When the Pitt and Notre Dame women last met in January 2012, it was nothing short of a disaster for the Panthers.

Notre Dame, ranked second in the country, held a 54-19 lead at the break and refused to let up in the second half. The Fighting Irish sent youthful Pitt home with a 120-44 loss, the worst in program history. It was something neither the coaches nor players, all freshmen and sophomores at the time, will soon forget.

With Notre Dame visiting Petersen Events Center on Wednesday for the first meeting since that game, it's also not something coach Agnus Berenato is trying to revisit.

“I haven't looked at the film,” she said. “I'm not going back, and there's no need for me to bring it up. I will not bring that game up. It's (assistant coach Khadija Head's) scout, and I told Khadija you don't need to go back and watch it. It's a new year.”

It may be a new year, but the two teams find themselves in similar positions. Notre Dame (16-1, 5-0 Big East) is again No. 2 in the nation, and Pitt (9-8, 0-4) is winless in the Big East.

The Panthers have lost 24 consecutive regular-season Big East games, dating to a 60-57 victory over Providence on Feb. 15, 2011.

Small marks of progress, such as fighting back from a big deficit to trail Villanova by just two at halftime Jan. 12, have been offset by disappointments, such as a 20.3 percent shooting effort in a 61-32 loss to St. John's in the following game.

Notre Dame, meanwhile, beat St. John's, 74-50, on Sunday to win its 11th straight game and begin the Big East season 5-0 for the sixth time in school history.

Coming to Pittsburgh with Notre Dame will be former Mt. Lebanon standout Madison Cable, who has appeared in 15 games, started two and averages 4.8 points and 3.5 rebounds. Cable, a sophomore, did not play her freshman year with stress fractures in both feet.

Despite Notre Dame's dominance and the result of last season's game, Pitt sophomore point guard Brianna Kiesel said the Panthers have to approach it as just another game.

“We can't bring last year's game into this year,” she said. “We're all Division I athletes, and we've all worked hard to get where we're at. The only thing that's different is we're Pitt, and they're Notre Dame.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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