Pitt Takes on Irish

For a pair of teams in the same conference, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh don't see each other very often. Considering the way the series has gone recently, Mike Brey's squad may wish it could stay that way.

The No. 21 Fighting Irish look to snap a five-game losing streak against the Panthers on Thursday while trying to extend their school-record home winning streak to 35 games.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Notre Dame –5.5 point spread favorites (View College Basketball odds) for today’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 72% of bets for this game have been placed on Notre Dame –5.5 (View College Basketball bet percentages).

Notre Dame (19-5, 9-3 Big East) hasn't faced Pittsburgh since its 100-97 double-overtime road loss Jan. 4, 2006. The Panthers have won all five meetings since Jan. 12, 2004, including a pair of victories at the Joyce Center.

Pittsburgh (19-6, 7-5), though, has never had to face Notre Dame's Luke Harangody. The sophomore forward leads the Big East with 20.4 points per game and is the conference's second-leading rebounder (10.3).

Harangody scored only 10 points in Notre Dame's most recent game, a 71-68 victory at Rutgers on Sunday, but the Irish improved to 9-3 in the Big East, their best start since joining the conference in 1995-96.

"It wasn't the prettiest game we could have played, but we grinded it out,'' said Harangody, who was 5-for-16 from the field. "The important thing is, we're 9-3 now, that's what we're looking for.''

Harangody had averaged 26.2 points and 13.0 rebounds in his previous six games, but he didn't need to carry the load Sunday. Sophomore guard Tory Jackson put together perhaps the best game of his career, finishing with 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.

"I just don't think there's a guard playing better than Tory right now,'' Brey said. "We've hit our stride the last month because of how this young man has played."

Jackson is averaging 14.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 assists in his last three games and leads the conference with 6.3 assists per game on the season.

Notre Dame averages 80.3 points per game - most in the Big East - many of which come from 3-point range. The Irish are easily the conference's best-shooting team from beyond the arc, converting on 40.5 percent of their attempts.

Kyle McAlarney leads the team with 78 3-pointers, hitting at a 45.1 percent clip. He's averaged 14.8 points in his last four games and has hit 48.1 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.

Pittsburgh was in the Top 25 all season until falling out this week following a 72-54 loss at Marquette on Friday. The Panthers were 15-2 following a win over then-No. 5 Georgetown on Jan. 14, but are 4-4 since.

"We just really got beat in every facet,'' coach Jamie Dixon said after the loss to the Golden Eagles.

One bright spot in the defeat was the return of Levance Fields. The junior guard broke his foot in a loss to Dayton on Dec. 29 and missed the next 12 games. He had only four points in 20 minutes Friday, but was averaging 11.3 points and 5.2 assists before the injury.

Sam Young has given Pittsburgh a go-to scorer all season. The junior is averaging 17.9 points and 6.7 rebounds, increasing his scoring by more than 10 points per game from 2006-07.

Young had perhaps the best game of his freshman season in the last meeting with Notre Dame, scoring 15 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the January 2006 matchup.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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