Panthers trounce Tigers by double digits, 81-63


Thomas J. Yang

Redshirt junior Yacine Diop scored 24 points in Pitt’s 81-63 victory over Towson. (Photo by Thomas Yang | Senior Staff Photographer)

By Dominic Campbell | Staff Writer

The Pitt Women’s basketball team came back after a loss to Duquesne in the City Game last week, trouncing the Towson Tigers by double digits, 81-63.  

The Panthers (3-1) took on the Tigers (0-3) at home to earn their best win of the season so far. Unlike previous games — where the team struggled to get an early handle — Pitt got out to a 20-5 lead at the end of the first quarter and was not threatened by Towson for the rest of the game.

“We just came out with a lot of energy,” sophomore guard Jasmine Whitney said. “And once you get energy and hit your first couple shots, it’s hard to stop after that.”

Whitney led the team with a layup to put the Panthers on the board, and by the first media timeout, the team was up, 10-0.

The Panthers held Towson scoreless until 4:25 was left in the first quarter, when a 3-pointer from redshirt senior guard Raine Bankston put the Tigers on the scoreboard. The Tigers took plenty of poor shots going 0-12 from the field and 0-5 from the three point line before Bankston’s bucket.

The Panthers continued to dominate for the remainder of the quarter, allowing only five points and getting five blocks and three steals. They made Towson settle for difficult shots as the Tigers only shot 2-17, 11.8 percent, for the quarter.

Entering the second quarter, the Panthers held on strong. While they did not shoot as well in the second quarter — going 6-18, 33 percent — they did shoot 8-8 from the free-throw line. Redshirt junior Yacine Diop was a major contributor, pulling down four rebounds in the first half and scoring six points — on her way to a total of 24 on the night.

Junior center Kalista Walters also starred for the Panthers in the first half, scoring eight points and going 3-3 from the field, as well as helping on defense with two blocked shots.

First-year guard Pika Rodriguez played well off the bench, providing the Panthers with two 3-pointers — her first scoring shots as a Panther. She also hit two foul shots, giving her eight points in three minutes as a substitute.

“I thought Jaala Henry and Pika Rodriguez coming off of the bench really provided a spark,” head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said.

At the beginning of the second half, Pitt led Towson 43-18 and added to their lead quickly, thanks to a quick three-point play from Diop.

But Towson started to pick up momentum on offense, scoring five points in the first two minutes from Bankston, who scored 16 points in the game from the Tigers. Towson also added two 3-pointers from sophomore guard Etalyia Vogt and junior guard Danielle Durjan to start an offensive rhythm.

The Tigers outscored the Panthers 26-18 in the third quarter and shot 9-16, 56.3 percent from the floor, but it was hardly enough to cut into the massive lead the Panthers built in the first half. Diop scored eight points in the third quarter, increasing her total to 18 for the game.

Whitney regained momentum for the Panthers early in the fourth quarter, grabbing two steals on consecutive possessions. Whitney had a productive game overall, scoring 10 points, dishing out six assists and nabbing four steals.

Junior guard Cassidy Walsh hit a 3-pointer to extend the lead to 70-48, a highlight of her game where she came off the bench to score 10 points.

The defining feature of the game for Pitt was their consistent free-throw shooting. They shot 24-30 for the game, including a 9-13 game by Diop.

“Of our four games, this is the most we’ve gotten to the foul line,” McConnell-Serio said. “There’s been an emphasis on us attacking the basket and not just being a perimeter-shooting team.”

The Panthers struggled shooting in the fourth quarter, going 5-16 from the field. However, they were able to knock down 9-12 fouls shots, making sure the Tigers couldn’t make it close down the stretch.

Pitt played well defensively in the quarter, blocking four shots and getting six steals to stymie Towson’s comeback efforts.

Towson did get the lead down to 14 at 77-63, with 1:57 left to go after a layup from Vogt, but it couldn’t force any turnovers or score after that, leading Pitt to run the clock down for the win, 81-63.

Pitt will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in Ohio Tuesday night, in the hopes of extending its winning record before ACC play begins. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.