The Pitt women’s basketball team snapped its six-game losing streak Thursday night, and it might not have happened without sophomore forward Brenna Wise breaking a program record.
Wise tallied a career-high 31 points — including 25 in the second half — while shooting a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line as the Panthers (13-13 overall, 4-9 ACC) defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies (16-10 overall, 3-10 ACC) 72-64 at the Petersen Events Center. The 6-foot forward broke the school record of 12-for-12 foul shooting previously held by Brianna Kiesel and Shavonte Zellous.
“Honestly, I could have scored zero points. It just feels great to win,” Wise said. “It’s awesome.”
Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio holds Wise to a higher standard than that though — a standard she lived up to and then some on Thursday.
“Brenna Wise — what a performance. I found out that it’s a school record, 13-for-13 from the free throw line. She was impressive,” McConnell-Serio said. “My expectations are high for Brenna. I’m probably hardest on her.”
Both teams struggled to find successful paths to the basket early on. The game remained tied at two for almost three minutes before sophomore forward Kauai Bradley gave Pitt a one-point lead with a free throw.
The Hokies broke a 5-5 tie with a jumper from sophomore guard Chanette Hicks, who then put up a layup to give VT a 9-5 lead.
Hokies sophomore forward Regan Magarity nailed a jumper with 48 seconds remaining in the first quarter, then Hicks pulled up just outside of the arc and sank a three with three seconds remaining in the quarter to give VT a 16-5 lead after an 11-0 run.
True freshman point guard Jasmine Whitney halted the Panthers’ scoring drought, starting the second quarter with a pair of layups. Following two baskets from the Hokies, Whitney drove to the basket for her third layup of the quarter, cutting VT’s lead to 20-11.
“We had played nine players at that point and just couldn’t find any rhythm, couldn’t hit shots and we played with no energy,” McConnell-Serio said. “Then, all of a sudden you insert Jasmine Whitney into the game, and I just had flashes of Brianna Kiesel coming off of high on-ball screens, getting to the rim, being able to score. She was a great spark off the bench.”
Comparing Whitney to Kiesel — one of the most decorated point guards in program history — is certainly high praise for a true freshman. But Whitney has played with the composure of a veteran as the team’s starting point guard since day one.
Hill followed a Whitney layup by draining a triple for VT. But Wise scored off an offensive rebound and turned around to score again, making it a 26-21 lead for the Hokies at halftime.
Whitney led Pitt with eight points and three rebounds in the first half, followed by Wise with six points and two rebounds and Harvey-Carr with four points and three rebounds.
“I felt good,” Whitney said. “I was trying to get my teammates involved, going off the screens, looking to dish, doing whatever I could to help the team.”
Wise started off her scorching second half with a triple, then a three by Bradley gave the Panthers a 27-26 lead. Wise squared up from the top of the key and converted another 3-pointer to give Pitt a four-point lead.
After Pitt graduate transfer guard Destinie Gibbs made her first shot of the night with 2:47 left in the quarter, Wise followed with another basket thirty seconds later to make the game 38-30.
Another trip to the line for Magarity gave the Hokies one more point, then Hicks added a free throw with 14.9 seconds left in the third quarter and the Panthers led 40-35 entering the fourth.
The Hokies turned to a full-court press in the final quarter, putting the pressure on Pitt’s offensive play. Whitney accrued her second foul with a little more than eight minutes left, sending Hicks to the line where two successful free throws made the game 44-39.
VT junior guard Diandra DaRosa nailed two jump shots and a free throw, and all of a sudden, the game was tied again. Magarity then gave the Hokies a 49-47 lead midway through the final quarter, and Pitt seemed on the verge of its seventh straight loss.
That’s when Wise took over.
True freshman guard Alayna Gribble made a three to give the advantage back to Pitt, then Wise and junior point guard Aysia Bugg extended that lead with a layup and two foul shots, respectively.
Following two points from Magarity, Wise fired up another basket and simultaneously drew a foul. She went on to make her free throw, after which Whitney scored with a jumper, making the game 59-51.
With 45 seconds remaining in the game, Wise found herself at the line once more, shooting and scoring both attempts.
“I absolutely want to be in those situations,” Wise said. “But it also comes from our coaching staff putting the ball in my hands, my teammates believing in me and putting a smile on my face at the line.”
Whitney converted two free throws less than 10 seconds later, but a pair of threes from Magarity kept VT in the game. After two more free throws from Bugg, Pitt held a 66-60 lead with 31 seconds left.
Hicks wove in and out of Pitt’s defenders, finding a lane to the basket and scoring two for the Hokies. But with VT over the foul limit, Wise continued to sink baskets at the line. Her final pair of shots came with four seconds left in the game, giving her a total of 31 points as the Panthers defeated the Hokies, 72-64.
“To look at the stat sheet and see we scored 32 points in the fourth quarter is impressive to me because of the struggles we have had throughout the course of the season,” McConnell-Serio said. “Winning just feels good and our players — the smiles on their faces — it was great to see the energy they had on the floor.”
The Panthers will take on Georgia Tech Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. in Atlanta.