When two key starters fouled out before the end of the game, the Pitt women’s basketball team’s attempt at a comeback against Charlotte Sunday afternoon fizzled out, ending instead in a 70-63 loss.
Uncharacteristically, forward Brenna Wise and center Brandi Harvey-Carr each collected five personal fouls with under seven minutes left on the game clock. The absence of these strong post players affected the team’s last quarter play, contributing to Pitt’s second loss in a row Sunday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.
“I don’t think we could find any rhythm especially with players getting in foul trouble,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “It forced us to change some things, put different combinations on the floor. When you have two starting post players for not much of the fourth quarter, it made a difference for us.”
Both Pitt and Charlotte had a slow start to the game. Charlotte scored after two minutes of gameplay. Shortly after this basket, Harvey-Carr committed her first and second personal foul of the game while defending underneath Pitt’s basket.
Wise put up the first points for Pitt from the foul line, sinking only one of her shots. Pitt first-year guard Jasmine Whitney made her first jumper of the day, tying the game at three.
After stealing a pass, Wise was met with stiff defense by Charlotte’s senior guard Ciara Gregory, who sailed into the group of Pitt cheerleaders seated on the floor. At the foul line again, Wise made both free throws this time. A triple from Pitt first-year Alayna Gribble sent the Panthers to a 10-5 lead over the 49ers.
Pitt junior guard Aysia Bugg got her first points of the game, and the 49ers responded with a 10-point run, ending the quarter with a 19-12 advantage over Pitt.
The 49ers started the second quarter with the first baskets, but Harvey-Carr nailed a solid layup to get two points. Just after her score, Harvey-Carr committed her third foul, this time against Charlotte’s forward Dara Pearson, and was subbed out for the remainder of the quarter. Even without her underneath the basket, the Panthers continued to score. Gibbs made her second shot of the game to tie up the score at 21.
Pitt sophomore Cassidy Walsh knocked down her first basket of the season, contributing three points to the Panthers. A combination of strong passes, offensive rebounds and clean defensive plays assisted Pitt in a 19-0 run and development of a 10-point lead, 31-21.
“She was great energy,” McConnell-Serio said about Walsh’s play. “She hit a three … It was great to see her back out there, to have another option, but with Cassidy and Alayna on the floor, we just didn’t match up with [the 49ers’] athleticism sometimes.”
Wise’s first foul of the afternoon preceded the 49ers’ end to the Panthers’ scoring streak. This foul didn’t send any players to the free throw line. Gribble nailed her second three of the game before Pitt sophomore forward Kauai Bradley replaced her on the floor, 34-23.
Before the quarter ended, Wise added a second personal foul just before the 49ers scored two points from a layup. Pitt ended this quarter in the lead, 35-28.A total of 32 points were added to the board: 23 from the Panthers and 9 from the 49ers. Strong defensive plays resulted in the Panthers holding the 49ers to a low second quarter.
“Our defense is going to create our offense,” Wise said. “If we limit them to nine points and we score 23 that means we’re playing both ends of the floor. We ran in transition, we posted up strong, we moved the ball well and I think if we carried that over to every single quarter, we have a game.”
The third quarter quickly opened with a jumper from Whitney to answer Charlotte’s two-point basket. Just 30 seconds later Wise followed a turnover with another personal foul, her third. This didn’t slow down the Panther’s opponents. A combined five points from Charlotte senior guard Lefty Webster decreased the 49ers’ deficit, 37-35.
Pitt’s increased its lead to four points before a jumper from Webster pushed the 49ers to a one point lead. Harvey-Carr reclaimed the lead for Pitt with her own jumper, 41-40.
“Our defense was really good,” Gribble said. “We got a lot of steals and our defense led to our offense.”
Two free throws and a triple allowed Charlotte to break away. After a Pitt timeout, the Panthers returned to add six points after a pair of threes from Bugg and Gribble. The 49ers answered with a triple to take back the lead, 48-47.
As the quarter drew to an end, Harvey-Carr found herself in foul trouble when her fourth personal foul was called. She was subbed out again so the team didn’t lose her before the final quarter. After Whitney calmly controlled the ball at the top of the key to rundown the clock, Wise put up two in the last seconds to move Pitt back within one point of the 49ers, 50-49.
Bugg started the final quarter by sinking two free throws. The 49ers landed one layup and two triples for a 6-point lead.
With 6:48 left in the game, Wise committed her fourth personal foul. Twenty seconds later, Wise tallied another one and found herself subbed out for having reached the maximum limit of five violations. One minute later, Harvey-Carr joined Wise on the bench with her own five personal fouls. For the remainder of the game, both powerhouse players had to watch the 49ers hold the Panthers to a trailing score from the sideline.
McConnell-Serio relied on timeouts in the last seconds of the game to give her players a break and stop their opponent’s run. Gribble landed her fourth triple, but after 10 lead changes and two fouled-out players, the Panthers fell to the 49ers, 70-63.
“We came with fire,” Wise said. “We want to wipe the slate clean, but also have a little bit of fire within us taken from a loss.”
The Panthers host Bryant Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center.