Created on Friday, 09 November 2012 00:37 Written by Dave Uhrmacher / Staff Writer
Pitt fans are all too familiar with what a Youngstown State Penguins team can do to a team hoping to pick up an easy win in the first game of the season.
A few months ago, the Penguins’ football squad came to Pittsburgh and shocked the Panthers, silencing a Heinz Field crowd that had been expecting a comprehensive victory for the home team.
Now the Pitt women’s basketball team will hope to avoid the same fate when it begins the regular season on Friday morning at the Petersen Events Center. Tipoff is slated for 11 a.m., as the Panthers host students from local elementary schools for the annual Kids Day.
Pitt head coach Agnus Berenato embarks on her 10th season as the leader of the Panthers, needing just seven more wins to become the program’s all-time leader in wins.
The matchup with Youngstown State marks the first of six straight non-conference home games to start the regular season for the Panthers. Pitt will not play a game away from the friendly confines of the Pete until Dec. 1, when it visits Lafayette.
Looking to start the season with a win, Berenato and her staff scheduled a full week of practice to prepare for the Penguins.
“We just have to make sure we are working hard every possession,” Berenato said. “Their play revolves around the perimeter, and they like to shoot out of transition, so we just have to keep our hands up, grab some long rebounds and get the ball out in transition.”
Pitt will need to play well to avoid an upset against Youngstown State.
The Penguins have improved drastically over the past two seasons under the direction of head coach Bob Boldon. The year before Boldon’s arrival, the team lost all 30 of its games.
But with Boldon at the helm, Youngstown State earned a combined 16 wins in the last two seasons, and the Penguins will hope to increase their win total for the third consecutive campaign this year.
Led by senior forward Brandi Brown — a Preseason First-Team All-Horizon League selection — the Penguins boast a potent offense with several 3-point shooting specialists.
Pitt sophomore guard Brianna Kiesel said the Panthers are aware of their opponent’s shooting ability.
“They have some good shooters and we have really been working in practice on closing out on shooters out of the 2-3 zone and making sure we play them tight,” Kiesel said of the defensive game plan.
According to sophomore forward Chyna Golden, the Panthers can’t afford to give up any uncontested shots to Youngstown State’s attackers.
“Coach has been stressing that all five players can shoot for them,” Golden said. “We just cannot allow them to get open looks.”
Although Youngstown State has increased its offensive output by 16 points per game over the last two years, the Penguins have lacked the defensive prowess to stop teams. The combination of a weak Youngstown State defensive unit and strong guard play for the Panthers should allow Pitt to light up the scoreboard.
“Offensively, we really want to push in transition, maybe get our guards a little more involved, and again get the post involved,” Kiesel said of the offensive strategy.
After losing its final 16 games last season, Pitt remembered what it felt like to win a game after defeating Lock Haven last Saturday, 94-61, in the Panthers’ only exhibition contest.
But Golden said the Panthers want to experience that winning feeling now in a game that counts.
“We are definitely ready to go, and I think we are all ready for a fresh start after last year,” she said.