The Pitt women’s basketball team’s ACC opener against the Miami Hurricanes went a lot like the teams’ last meeting at last year’s ACC tournament — a dominant victory for Miami.
The No. 11 Hurricanes (12-2 overall, 1-1 ACC) defeated the Panthers (9-5 overall, 0-1 ACC), 82-50, on Monday night in front of a mostly empty Petersen Events Center. Miami guard Laura Cornelius didn’t even start the game, but still led all scorers with 24 points on perfect 8-of-8 shooting.
“It’s the best I’ve seen her play,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said about Cornelius. “She’s a guard that you can’t go under screens on, because one of the toughest things to do is to come off of an on-ball screen and hit threes, and she does it very well.”
The game started with the two teams going back and forth before the Hurricanes began imposing their will on both ends of the court, allowing them to pull away midway through the first quarter. Miami’s full-court press on defense gave Pitt problems from the start, and the Panthers never really recovered after getting blitzed by the Hurricanes for a 16-2 run.
“We did prepare for [the press],” Pitt sophomore forward Brenna Wise said. “It’s hard to simulate their intensity. They made us make mistakes, but we also made our own mistakes.”
Miami won the opening tip and quickly put two points on the board on a short jumper by senior forward Keyona Hayes. After a missed 3-pointer by Wise, 6-foot-4 center Brandi Harvey-Carr converted a 3-point play to give the Panthers a 3-2 lead.
Harvey-Carr missed a layup on Pitt’s next possession, and the Hurricanes regained the lead on a fastbreak layup by Hayes. Then, after a jumper by Miami senior guard Adrienne Motley, Panthers point guard Jasmine Whitney drilled a three to tie the game at six.
After a layup by Hurricanes center Erykah Davenport, Pitt junior point guard Aysia Bugg drilled a three to give the Panthers a 9-8 lead. But some sloppy play allowed Miami to go on a 6-0 run, as Pitt turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions.
A jumper from sophomore forward Kauai Bradley momentarily halted the Panthers’ drought, but the Hurricanes went on another 10-0 run to take a commanding 24-11 lead into the second quarter. Miami’s suffocating defense forced 11 Pitt turnovers in the first quarter alone.
Just when it looked like the Panthers were out of it, they started the second quarter with a 9-3 run to cut the deficit to seven. But the Hurricanes quickly silenced those roars with a 19-0 run, effectively putting the game out of reach.
After almost seven minutes without a point, Pitt forward Destinie Gibbs nailed a jumper with eight seconds left in the half to end the scoreless streak. But Hurricanes guard Laura Cornelius beat the buzzer with a jumper to make it 48-22 Miami at the break.
The Panthers simply could not stop Cornelius in the first half, as she shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the field — including 5-for-5 from beyond the arc — with 19 points in the first half.
Pitt kept pace through the third quarter and actually outscored the Hurricanes, 18-16. But it wasn’t enough to put a serious dent in the gap, as Miami led 64-40 going into the final quarter.
The Hurricanes continued to build their lead in the fourth, cruising to an 82-50 blowout victory. Harvey-Carr was the lone bright spot for the Panthers, leading the team with 14 points in her first game against ACC competition.
“This is different … these girls are actually bigger than what I’m used to,” Harvey-Carr said about her first game against ACC competition. “I feel like I adjusted to it well.”
The Panthers will next travel to Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, to take on the Boston College Eagles at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 5.