Winter recess all but a break for Panthers sports

Senior diver Meme Sharp took first in the 1-meter springboard at the USA Diving Winter Nationals on December 13. (Photo by Jordan Mondell | Contributing Editor)

While most Pitt students were at home relaxing and celebrating the holidays, Pitt swimming and diving, wrestling and men’s and women’s basketball teams were still hard at work.

Throughout the break, the Panthers continued to compete on the mat, in the pool and on the court, with mixed results.

Swimming and Diving

The Pitt diving team kicked off winter break in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the USA Diving Winter Nationals. Senior diver Meme Sharp and former Pitt diver-turned-volunteer-assistant-coach Dominic Giordano came up with wins over the week-long contest.

Sharp took first in the 1-meter springboard Wednesday, Dec. 13, and finished the meet Friday evening, placing 15th on the 3-meter dive.

Giordano, a four-time All-American and the 2016 NCAA 3-meter springboard diving champion while representing Pitt as a student-athlete, placed ninth on the 3-meter springboard on Saturday. He also took 11th on the 1-meter dive earlier in the week.

The Pitt swimming and diving teams were both set to take on the West Virginia Mountaineers in the Backyard Brawl Saturday, Jan. 6, but the meet was postponed due to cold-related technical issues at the aquatics center in Morgantown. The meet has not yet been rescheduled.

Wrestling

The Pitt wrestling team took respite over the holiday season, but were back on the mat the first weekend of the new year. The Panthers split their weekend with a 28-11 loss to No. 25 North Dakota State on Friday, and a narrow 19-18 triumph over No. 18 Oklahoma on Sunday.

Against NDSU, three Panthers — senior Dom Forys, redshirt senior Nick Zanetta and redshirt freshman Gregg Harvey — came away with wins. Harvey had a particularly successful day, snagging a 19-7 major decision over the Bisons’ Nick Knutson.

Taking on Oklahoma, redshirt senior Nick Zanetta, redshirt sophomore Taleb Rahmani and freshman Gregg Harvey all won by decision. Redshirt senior Ryan Solomon also earned a win by fall.

Senior Dom Forys claimed a win by major decision over the Sooners’ Jacob Rubio, who is currently ranked 27th in nation in his weight class.

The team now sits at an overall record of 2-6 — breaking a major six-match losing streak — before opening their ACC season next Sunday, Jan. 21, against the Virginia Tech Hokies.  

Women’s Basketball

The Pitt women’s basketball team (8-8) didn’t have much to celebrate over the holidays aand now enter the new year last in the ACC standings. Over the winter break, Pitt went 2-4 overall and 0-3 in ACC play.

The Panthers’ two wins came by double digits against both Bucknell and Chicago State. During the Chicago State game, junior center Kalista Walters broke a school record for efficiency from the field going 12-12 for 24 points in the 87-49 victory for the Panthers.

Pitt lost to in-state rival Penn State 59-48 in their first game during the break and added three conference losses to Virginia, Wake Forest and North Carolina before break’s end. Despite the loss, the Wake Forest game was a great showing for junior guard Yacine Diop, who scored 26 points and added 10 rebounds to get her fourth double-double of the season.

Over the break, the Panthers shot 41.1 percent from the field as a team and averaged 59.7 points per game compared to their opponents’ 55.8 points per game. Diop is currently the team’s leading scorer averaging 14.9 points per game.

Men’s basketball

In their six games over the break the Pitt men’s basketball team (8-8) went 3-3 with all three losses coming against conference opponents.

The Panthers started the break on a three-game winning streak with victories against McNeese State, Delaware State and Towson. Their 72-51 victory over McNeese stands as the Panthers’ largest margin of victory so far this season.

After Christmas, Pitt started conference play with three double-digit losses to No. 15 Miami, Louisville and Virginia Tech. Pitt’s game against Louisville marked the first time in program history that five freshmen started in a game.

The Panthers are the only team left in the ACC without a conference win. As a whole, the team averaged 63.3 points per game during the break and allowed opponents to score 67.2 points per game. Junior forward Jared Wilson-Frame leads the Panthers in scoring, averaging 12.9 points per game.

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