Three games into the 2016-2017 season, the Pitt women’s basketball team continues to find different ways to win.
This time, height and strength were the keys for the Panthers (3-0) as 6-foot-4 center Brandi Harvey-Carr and 6-foot forward Brenna Wise led the team with 13 points and eight rebounds apiece in a 59-35 win over Loyola Chicago (0-2) at the Petersen Events Center Thursday night. Kalista Walters, the 6-foot-1 forward, contributed eight points and eight rebounds off the bench in Pitt’s lopsided victory.
“When you hold a team to 35 points, you’re obviously doing something right,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said after the game. “But for me, I’m greedy … I thought we put them on the [free throw] line way too many times.”
The Ramblers did make 16 free throws on 21 attempts, compared to only seven makes on nine attempts from the line for the Panthers. But Pitt held Loyola to just nine field goals on 47 shots in a masterful defensive performance.
Wise opened the scoring with a slashing drive to the hoop through multiple defenders, converting a layup for the first bucket of the game. Harvey-Carr, known more for her length and rebounding ability on the low block than her outside shooting, added a 3-pointer from the top of the key to make it a 5-0 Panthers lead.
“We knew going into this game that they were much smaller and that we had a [size] advantage, so we just tried to go in strong and just tried to finish,” Harvey-Carr said.
Pitt continued to add to its lead as Harvey-Carr controlled the glass with ease. The graduate transfer center used her strength and size to corral an offensive rebound followed by an easy putback, then Panthers sophomore forward Kauai Bradley turned a steal into a fastbreak layup. A 3-pointer by first-year guard Alayna Gribble gave Pitt a 14-2 lead late in the first quarter.
After the Panthers controlled the first quarter on their way to a 16-6 lead, Loyola came out rejuvenated for the second quarter. A pair of jumpers by first-year guard Lauren Segars made things interesting, cutting Pitt’s lead to six.
The Panthers managed to push the lead back to 10, but the Ramblers continued to fight.
First, a 3-pointer from Loyola first-year guard Kaitlyn Williams cut the deficit to five. Williams then converted a tough layup after Pitt stretched its advantage to eight, and a jumper from Ramblers first-year guard Tiara Wallace made it a four-point game.
That was as close as Loyola would come in the first half, as Pitt sophomore forward Kalista Walters grabbed a pair of offensive boards and converted the putbacks to give the Panthers a 30-20 halftime lead.
“My teammates, especially starting with Brenna and Brandi, I definitely think they set the tone early on,” Walters said. “And when they set the tone it’s easy for me to come in and finish what they started.”
Pitt came out strong to start the second half, especially on the defensive end. The Panthers scored the first seven points of the third quarter offensive while keeping the Ramblers off the board for more than five minutes.
A pair of free throws by Loyola gave the Ramblers their first points of the second half, but the game was already slipping out of reach.
Pitt used a balanced scoring attack to extend its lead to 21 on the strength of back-to-back layups by Walters. Loyola added two more free throws with half a second left in the quarter, but the Panthers took a 45-28 edge into the fourth.
After a quick layup made it a 15-point game early in the final quarter, Bradley immediately responded by draining a three. Soon, Pitt’s lead was back over 20, and the Panthers were able to cruise through the final 10 minutes to a decisive 59-35 win.
Despite the 24-point blowout, Wise believes the team still has many areas to improve on.
“Just continuing to move without the ball. When our outside shots aren’t hitting, continuing to finish at the rim … continuing all aspects of our game,” Wise said.
Pitt will next host Loyola Maryland at the Pete at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21.