No. 20 Syracuse sinks Pitt on Senior Day, 73-57


Pitt point guard Jasmine Whitney (3) scored 11 points in a 73-57 loss on Senior Day vs. No. 20 Syracuse. Anna Bongardino | Staff Photographer

Fans packed the Petersen Events Center for the 10th annual “Pink the Petersen” game for breast cancer awareness Sunday, but the support wasn’t enough to get the Panthers a win.

The Pitt women’s basketball team (13-16 overall, 4-12 ACC) lost its final regular season game to the No. 20 Syracuse Orange (20-9 overall, 11-5 ACC) Sunday afternoon in front of several thousand pink-clad fans at the Pete. The game was close for the majority of the first three quarters, but the Orange pulled away late for a 73-57 win.

Tickets for the game cost $5, and Pitt donated a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales to Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh.

Syracuse guard Alexis Peterson led all players with 25 points, while Orange guard Brittney Sykes contributed 21. Graduate transfer center Brandi Harvey-Carr led the Panthers with 18 points and five rebounds in her final home game.

“I was trying to play with poise and play slower and try to make my layups,” Harvey-Carr said. “I actually had fun today because it’s my last day here, so that was going through my mind.”

The Panthers stole the ball from the Orange to start the game, then Harvey-Carr drove to the basket for a layup and drew a foul, making both free throws for the first points of the game. Syracuse quickly followed with a jumper from Sykes to tie the game at two.

“We understood going into this game, Syracuse has not only one but two of the leading scorers in the ACC: Sykes and Peterson,” Pitt sophomore forward Brenna Wise said. “I think Destinie [Gibbs], as well as the rest of our team, did a great job trying to keep them in front. It’s a learning process.”

Panthers sophomore forward Kalista Walters scored her first points on a wide-open layup in the paint, then first-year point guard Jasmine Whitney went to the foul line and added two for the Panthers. But Syracuse went on a 9-0 run to build an early double-digit lead.

Wise ended the first quarter and the Orange’s run with a deep three, trimming the gap to eight with Syracuse leading 24-16 at the end of the first quarter.

Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said the Orange did an impressive job of game planning for the Panthers after their last meeting Feb. 2 — specifically by taking away the 3-point shot.

“It’s the way Syracuse makes adjustments. It’s the way they play. They’ll take things away,” McConnell-Serio said. “Alayna Gribble had seven threes against them last time, and she couldn’t even get a shot off today with their defense now keying on her.”

Syracuse scored with two foul shots and a three early in the second quarter, then Harvey-Carr earned two trips to the free throw line, where she made three out of four shots.

Maintaining her presence under the basket, Harvey-Carr made another layup and drew a foul, but missed her shot at a 3-point play. Pitt junior point guard Aysia Bugg then followed with her first basket to make it 35-32.

The Orange scored the last four points to end the first half with a 39-33 advantage. Sykes led Syracuse with 15 points and three rebounds. Harvey-Carr led the Panthers with 14 points and three rebounds at the half, followed by Wise with seven points and two rebounds.

“I tried to be consistent on the defensive as well as the offensive end,” Harvey-Carr said. “It was good to try to be in the game with a ranked team.”

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Photo gallery by Anna Bongardino | Staff Photographer

The third quarter started slow, with no baskets for more than two minutes until Peterson converted a layup for the Orange.

Whitney continued Pitt’s scoring from underneath the basket with a layup, then assisted Harvey-Carr on a layup of her own. Peterson scored four more points for Syracuse before Wise drained a three, then Whitney followed with a 3-point play to make it a four-point game.

Controlling the ball and acting as though she was going to drive to the basket, Whitney faked a shot and passed to Gribble, who stepped inside the arc and sank a jumper. Whitney then put up two more points to make the game 52-49.

McConnell-Serio received a technical foul for arguing a call with the officials, giving two free throws and possession of the ball to the Orange — a costly penalty in a one-possession game. Peterson drained both foul shots for Syracuse, then made two more after a foul by Whitney. The third quarter ended with the Orange ahead, 56-49.

“Through the third quarter it was a three-point game,” McConnell-Serio said, adding that the technical foul and Whitney’s fourth foul “changed the whole complexion of the game.”

The fourth quarter started with two trips to the free throw line for Syracuse center Bria Day after fouls from Harvey-Carr. Day stretched the Syracuse lead to 11 with four made shots.

The Orange put up six more points to build a 69-52 lead, effectively putting the game out of reach midway through the final quarter. The teams remained scoreless for the final minute and a half of game time after a final layup by Sykes, and the Panthers fell to the Orange in their final home game, 73-57.

“They’re just a tough team. With tough teams like that you can’t give them any room to breathe,” Pitt graduate transfer guard Gibbs said.

Pitt will next compete in the first round of the 2017 ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament in Conway, South Carolina. The No. 11-seed Panthers will take on the No. 14-seed North Carolina Tar Heels at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 1.