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Pitt hopes to snap Notre Dame streak

| Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013, 11:09 p.m.
Fordham's Jermaine Myers defends a drive by Pitt's Tray Woodall during the first half Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. (AP)

Pitt has plenty of motivation for playing Notre Dame, given their identical records and fifth-place tie in the Big East standings.

What raises the stakes is that none of Pitt's players has experienced victory over Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish (20-6, 8-5) have won four consecutive games against the Panthers (20-6, 8-5) heading into their 7 p.m. game Monday at Petersen Events Center.

“Everyone in the locker room knows we've got to get this W, especially at home,” Pitt redshirt junior swingman Lamar Patterson said. “In my career here, we've lost too many games at home. I don't want to lose at home.”

For senior point guard Tray Woodall, who as a redshirt freshman could only watch Pitt's last win over Notre Dame in January 2009, it's not about protecting the Pete. It's about staying in the hunt for the Big East regular-season title following a 79-69 loss at Marquette on Saturday.

“I want to win, regardless of home or away,” Woodall said. “It ain't about home dominance. It's win every game. We need to establish winning. That's what we want to do.”

Especially against Notre Dame, which owns a 13-11 record against Pitt in Big East play. That includes four wins at Petersen Events Center, where Pitt has lost only 21 games in 11 seasons.

Where Notre Dame used an up-tempo style in beating Pitt, 72-59, in December 2011 in South Bend, Ind. — the Irish made 18 of 25 field goals, including five 3-pointers, in the second half — the Panthers should expect them to revert to their work-the-clock system.

After winning three of their previous four games in overtime, including a five-OT thriller over Louisville, Notre Dame is coming off a lethargic 71-54 loss at Providence on Saturday.

A secret to Mike Brey's success against Pitt has been to work the shot clock until the final seconds, then launch 3-pointers or try to score inside off rebounds.

“They kind of wore us down, got shots at the end of the shot clock and got some pretty good looks,” Woodall said. “It's hard to stop a team who runs the clock all the way down from 35 to three and hits either a 3 or gets a shot off and, once they get the rebound, run the clock down some more. We've just got to try to speed them up a little bit and play our game.”

The Panthers are coming off one of their worst defending and rebounding performances of the season. Marquette on Saturday shot 56.5 percent from the field, including 61.5 percent in the first half, and had a plus-nine rebounding edge.

There will be an emphasis on improving those areas against the Irish.

Notre Dame is led by 6-foot-9 senior forward Jack Cooley, who is averaging 14.6 points and 11.2 rebounds a game, and guards Jerian Grant (13.0 points, 5.8 assists) and Eric Atkins (11.7 ppg, 5.9 apg).

“We can be comfortable in that. We've got poised guys. We've just got to make smart decisions when we get the ball,” Patterson said.

“We have to take open shots and make them uncomfortable on offense. They try to hold it as much as possible, but if we can get pressure on them and try to speed it up a little bit, I think that's our key to winning. Obviously, that and rebounding and defense.”

Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at kgorman@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

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