The Pitt women’s basketball team could do nothing to stop Purdue point guard Ashley Morrissette Wednesday night, and it resulted in their first loss of the season.
“It wasn’t our best game. We struggled offensively the whole night,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “Give Purdue credit. They’re a really good team, they’re an experienced team, and they’re led by a really good point guard.”
Morrissette tallied 31 points on 12-of-17 shooting for the Boilermakers (4-4) in a 67-61 win over the Panthers (6-1) at the Petersen Events Center. First-year guard Alayna Gribble scored 14 points to lead the way for Pitt, while 6-foot-4 center Brandi Harvey-Carr chipped in a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“I liked the competition. The speed of the game was way faster than the other teams we’ve played,” Harvey-Carr said. “I got 10 rebounds, but every game I want to look at my performance and get better. Every game is a game to progress.”
The Boilermakers put the first points on the board just over a minute into the game on Morrissette’s layup, but Harvey-Carr answered with a layup of her own to tie things up.
The Panthers adjusted to Purdue’s steady playmaking on defense, but were unable to stop the players in the paint as the Boilermakers increased their lead to four points, 6-2. Pitt was able to find direct lines to the basket on offense, but unable to finish as eight shots in a row missed the mark.
The Panthers decreased their deficit when junior guard Aysia Bugg made one of her go-to mid-range jump shots. Gribble then returned to the court for the Panthers after missing the last three games with plantar fasciitis and quickly added three to the board, giving Pitt its first lead at 7-6.
“I had to get adjusted,” Gribble said. “I was out for about a week and a half with an injury so I just had to get back in the rhythm. I didn’t really start hitting shots until the second half.”
The lead flipped back and forth before the quarter ended in Purdue’s favor, 12-11. This was the first time all season the Panthers found themselves trailing at the end of a quarter.
After the Boilermakers put up four more points to start the second quarter, McConnell-Serio called a timeout to stop Purdue’s run.
Shortly after the timeout, Bugg and sophomore forward Kalista Walters put up a pair of baskets and closed the gap to 16-15. Showing her power outside of the paint, Harvey-Carr nailed a 3-pointer to give Pitt a two-point lead. Another three from Bugg and a layup from first-year guard Jasmine Whitney pushed the Panthers’ lead to 23-18.
The five-point advantage was the largest lead Pitt would enjoy all night.
After a layup by Boilermakers forward Ae’Rianna Harris, guard Andreona Keys followed with four straight free throws to put Purdue back in the lead by one point, 24-23. Pitt forward Destinie Gibbs answered with her first basket, returning Pitt’s lead to 25-24.
The first half ended with Bugg leading the Panthers in scoring with seven points and Pitt clinging to a one-point lead.
Harvey-Carr started the second half with a layup, but Purdue knotted the score again with a 3-pointer by Morrissette. After two free throws from forward Brenna Wise, the Boilermakers took control of the game with an 11-0 run.
A jumper, 3-pointer and layup in quick succession pushed Purdue to a 34-29 lead. Two foul shots and a jumper made it a nine-point game for the Boilermakers’ largest lead yet.
Coming back from the bench, Gribble nailed her second 3-pointer of the game. Shortly after, Harvey-Carr banked in another 3-point shot, and all of a sudden it was a one-point game at 44-43.
Purdue senior forward Bridget Perry landed a jumper after a timeout, but a foul from her teammate, center Nora Kiesler, sent Harvey-Carr to the foul line.
Both teams continued to draw fouls in a physical, back-and-forth game. With a minute left in the third quarter, Pitt had already committed four team fouls while Purdue had five. The quarter ended with Pitt behind by five points, 53-48.
Although the Boilermakers opened the final quarter with the first basket, Pitt was able to come all the way back and tie the game at 55 with two layups from Walters and a 3-pointer from Gribble. Both players reached double digits at 11 points apiece.
Purdue then broke away, putting up the next eight points and denying the Panthers any baskets until Gribble drilled her fourth triple of the game with. Whitney continued to find herself at the foul line, but was unable to make her shots, finishing 3-of-8 from the stripe.
Morrissette proved to be virtually impossible for the Panthers to guard, drawing several fouls at the end of the fourth quarter to cap off her 31-point performance. After a close game featuring six ties and 10 lead changes, Purdue held on for a 67-61 win.
“She’s very good. Coming off of on-ball screens, she’s very good at scoring,” McConnell-Serio said about Morrissette. “If you go under screens, she’ll stop behind and hit threes. If you help too much with your post, she finds open players, she’ll disrupt. She can pick things apart.”
The Panthers host the Charlotte 49ers at the Pete Sunday, Dec. 4, at 2 p.m.