ND looks for record-breaking win over Pitt
By TIM CASEY
Notre Dame looks to break a school record for consecutive victories when it hosts Pittsburgh in a Big East conference game tonight at the Joyce Center.
The fifth-ranked Irish (19-2, 10-0 Big East) have won 15 straight games, dating back to a 71-61 loss to Purdue on Dec. 8. That mark ties the school record set in 1990-91.
"We don't really dwell on the win streak," center Ruth Riley said. "It's nice to be winning but we also know we've got to take it one game at a time."
The Irish are coming off a 72-59 win over Boston College on Saturday afternoon, their 18th straight victory at home. Riley had a game-high 23 points, including 11 in a row in the second half.
Junior forward Kelley Siemon, named co-Big East Player of the Week, added 11 points and a career-high 14 rebounds against the Eagles.
"Kelley's been playing well," Riley said. "This year everyone's contributing and being more consistent."
The two teams met on Jan. 18, and the Irish left Fitzgerald Fieldhouse with a 67-53 victory. Alicia Ratay tallied a game-high 17 points, while Riley chipped in with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Gina Montesano, who missed all of last season after recovering from knee surgery, scored 10 points for the Panthers. In that game Notre Dame dominated the boards, hauling down 42 compared to Pittsburgh's 26. They also limited the Panthers to 37 percent shooting from the field.
A year after posting an 8-19 record, Pittsburgh began the season on a tear, winning 11 of its first 14 games, the second best start in school history. Since then, the Panthers have struggled to a 4-6 Big East record. Included in the recent slump was an 88-36 loss to Connecticut. Their record is deceiving though, with five of their losses coming against top 20 teams.
"They have some good players," Riley said. "They're a guard oriented team with some good shooters."
Pittsburgh is led by freshman Mandy Wittenmyer, the Big East co-Rookie of the Week along with Notre Dame's Alicia Ratay. Wittenmyer, a 6-foot-2 forward averages a team-high 11.8 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Her seven double-doubles on the season lead the conference. In the Panthers' previous nine games, she has six double-doubles.
"She's a good all-around player," Riley said, referring to Wittenmyer. "She doesn't post up too much but she has a good jumper from around the foul line."
The freshman class has sparked the Panthers, accounting for 49 percent of the team's scoring. Other first year players include reserve Brooke Stewart, the team's third leading scorer with 7.9 points per game, point guard Laine Selwyn and forward Dallas Williams.
Junior shooting guard Monique Toney is second on the team with 9.7 points per game. Her 5.4 assists per game rank her fourth in the conference.
Seven Panthers average over 15 minutes per game with Wittenmyer's 29.3 average leading the team. They are averaging 64.5 points per game, while allowing 62.3.
While their balanced scoring attack has received most of the attention, the Irish defense has held 8 straight opponents under 60 points. They held Pitt to 37 percent shooting in their last meeting.
Wednesday's game marks the eighth meeting between the teams, with the Irish owning a 7-0 advantage.
All Sports Stories for Wednesday, February 9, 2000