Women’s Basketball: Pitt suffers worst loss in program’s history

Jasper Wilson | January 18, 2012    

The Pitt women’s basketball team didn’t just lose on Tuesday night — it lost in… The Pitt women’s basketball team didn’t just lose on Tuesday night — it lost in record-setting fashion.

The Panthers’ 76-point loss to No. 2 Notre Dame (19-1, 6-0 Big East), 120-44, marked their worst defeat in the program’s history, a record previously held by Pitt’s 69-point loss to Connecticut in 2002. The game also fell just two points shy of a Big East record for largest margin of defeat, currently held by a 78-point Providence loss to Connecticut in 1998.

“I thought it was their shooting that gave us the most trouble,” Pitt head coach Agnus Berenato said in a post-game press conference. “[Notre Dame] didn’t miss tonight. We have the youngest team in the nation, and our kids were a little starstruck. But at the same time, I would rather have my team come here starstruck than to go play somewhere else that is meaningless.”

The combination of the the Fighting Irish’s Big East leading offense and the Panthers’ conference-worst defense proved fatal for Pitt as it fell in its fifth-straight game.

The defeat marked the first time that an opponent reached triple digits against a Berenato-coached Pitt team. The Panthers (8-11, 0-6 Big East) last gave up 100-plus points in the 112-43 loss to Connecticut in 2002.

Before the loss to the Fighting Irish, the greatest number of points Pitt had given up this season was 92 in a loss at then-No. 7 Duke. Notre Dame came within a 3-point shot of tying the most points scored against Pitt in history, but Providence put up 123 points against the Panthers in 1989.

Heading into the game, Berenato stressed that Pitt’s focus needed to be on more than just junior guard Skylar Diggins, Notre Dame’s second-leading scorer with 15.9 points per game.

She was right.

A total of eight Notre Dame players reached double figures, led by fifth-year senior Devereaux Peters who led all scorers with 20 points. She averages 11.2 points per game.

“I’m not really big into getting a bunch of points,” Devereaux said in a post-game press conference. “There are plenty of people on the team who are scorers. When I have big nights, that’s great, but I don’t focus on it.”

Natalie Achonwa added 19 points and seven rebounds.

Notre Dame’s head coach Muffet McGraw said in a post-game press conference that she was most pleased with her team’s balanced scoring attack, particularly off the bench.

“I felt that everyone that came in contributed in some way, and we kept the intensity up,” she said. “Sometimes when you get a big lead, you sometimes worry about that. We’ve had games where we’ve struggled to score late in the game. We kept the focus on defense too.”

Diggins said in a post-game press conference that it’s important for Notre Dame to keep its focus at a high level.

“We take it one opponent at a time and just try to get better each day in practice,” she said. “Without having practice players, we’ve been going at each other, which I think is good for us. It helps us to go up against some of the best players in the country [who are] on our team.”

Redshirt sophomore Ashlee Anderson led Pitt with 14 points and was the only Panther to reach double figures.

The Irish shot 64.9 percent from the field — the best shooting percentage for a Pitt opponent since 2004.

“Notre Dame played in the purest form,” Berenato said. “They didn’t play above the rim, but they really executed the way offenses are supposed to be run. They nailed their threes and they were on from the start. When you shoot over 60 percent for the game, it’s pretty impressive.”

For the first time this season, Pitt failed to convert a 3-pointer, shooting 0-10 from beyond the arc. The Panthers shot 35.6 percent from the field for the game.

Notre Dame held Pitt to fewer than 10 points until 8:11 to go in the first half and led 54-19 at the half.

Pitt’s trouble maintaining possession reached new heights against the Irish, as the Panthers eclipsed their previous season high of 25 turnovers, committing 26.

With the loss, Pitt is winless through the first six games of conference play for the first time under Berenato.

The Panthers will continue their quest for their first Big East win when the West Virginia Mountaineers come to the Petersen Events Center on Saturday for the Backyard Brawl. Tipoff is at 2 p.m.

Lauren Kirschman contributed to this story.

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