The Pitt women’s basketball team has turned to Brenna Wise and Brandi Harvey-Carr for the majority of its offense this season, but a new face emerged Thursday night as the Panthers’ go-to offensive threat — reserve forward Kalista Walters.
Wise, a sophomore forward, leads the team with 14.1 points per game, while graduate transfer center Harvey-Carr scored in double figures in four straight games going into Pitt’s matchup with the Boston College Eagles at the Petersen Events Center.
It started off looking like Wise would carry the load on offense again — that is, until Panthers’ head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio turned to her bench.
Walters checked into the game late in the first quarter and immediately went to work, tallying a game-high 19 points in Pitt’s 56-43 win over BC (8-7 overall, 1-1 ACC). Wise added 15 points and five rebounds to help the Panthers (10-5 overall, 1-1 ACC) snap a two-game losing skid and pick up their first ACC win of the 2016-17 season.
“Kalista Walters was huge tonight, coming off the bench,” McConnell-Serio said. “She was a key factor scoring, defense, rebounding, getting her hands on balls, just all over the court. She’s a big reason we’re sitting here victorious tonight, because she impacted the game the entire time she was on the floor.”
Fighting for the first possession from the tip-off, Pitt secured the ball with a timely grab from graduate transfer forward Destinie Gibbs. Wise took the first shot of the night but missed the 3-point attempt.
With the shot clock winding down, Gibbs hit a jumper to put up the first points in the game for the Panthers. True freshman point guard Jasmine Whitney then hit a pair of free throws to increase Pitt’s lead to 4-0.
Forward Georgia Pineau converted a layup for the Eagles to put them on the board. But Wise followed these points with three successive layups, forcing BC to call a timeout. After the timeout, the Eagles returned to the court and added four more points to make it 10-6.
Walters then earned a trip to the free throw line after drawing a foul underneath the basket. She only made one out of two foul shots, but there was much more to come.
She followed with a clean layup and two foul shots to make it 15-7, then continued to be the Panthers’ most productive offensive weapon, opening the second quarter with her second layup of the night.
Pitt’s offense then went more than three minutes without a score when Walters rolled off a pick and drained an open jumper from just outside of the paint. The Eagles decreased their deficit with two foul shots, but Walters answered with two more layups, giving the Panthers their largest lead yet at 23-10.
Walters proved to be a force in the scoring department and was Pitt’s only player to score before the media timeout. Sophomore forward Kauai Bradley then nailed the Panthers’ first 3-pointer of the night to give them a 26-12 lead.
“I think that with practice and going over their defense and us executing plays, that’s what helped us to get the easy buckets,” Bradley said.
Maintaining her offensive presence beneath the basket, Walters followed Bradley’s three with another layup. The Panthers outscored the Eagles 13-7 in the second quarter to take a 28-14 lead into halftime, and Walters outscored BC by herself with 15 first-half points.
“[McConnell-Serio] gives every player equal opportunities. So when you get on the floor, if you play your heart out and produce, you’re going to extend your minutes,” Walters said. “That mentality really helped me out this game, because when I started scoring, it was easier for me to get in a groove.”
Pitt followed a successful second quarter performance with a slow start after the half. BC scored the first five points out of the break before the Panthers put up their first second-half points with a jumper from Wise.
The Eagles decreased the Panthers’ lead to single digits with a jumper and a layup, but junior point guard Aysia Bugg drew a foul and added two for Pitt to make it 37-28. Panthers sophomore guard Cassidy Walsh then chalked up her first points of the game with two more free throws, extending Pitt’s lead back to 10.
“I thought our players did a great job the last couple days buying into how we needed to defend their offense and who we needed to key on,” McConnell-Serio said. “Kelly Hughes and Mariella Fasoula are two really, really good players that we needed to contain.”
The Panthers faced a full-court press in the fourth quarter but handled it better than in their last outing against Miami, avoiding turnovers and drawing enough fouls to build their lead. Whitney made three out of four from the line, and Bugg converted both of her attempts to seal the 56-43 victory.
Pitt will travel to Louisville, Kentucky, on Sunday to meet the No. 8 Louisville Cardinals. Tipoff is at 4 p.m.