For the second straight Sunday, Pitt women’s basketball took a ranked team down to the wire, but ultimately couldn’t hold on for the victory. The Panthers fell to the No. 10 Florida State Seminoles, 66-59, at the Petersen Events Center.
“I’m so proud of the effort our players gave the entire game,” head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “They stuck to the game plan. It was just a disappointing ending to a hard-fought game.”
Despite shooting at a higher percentage than its opponent, Pitt (10-14 overall, 2-9 ACC) failed to contain the outside shooting of FSU graduate guard AJ Alix, who drained seven of her nine 3-point attempts for a game-high 25 points. The Seminoles (19-4 overall, 7-3 ACC) also dominated the Panthers on the offensive glass by a margin of 17 to five.
But in the first quarter, it was Pitt — not Florida State — that looked like a top-ranked team. The Panthers looked prepared, outplaying their opponent on both sides of the ball.
Pitt’s 2-3 zone stifled FSU’s two leading scorers — the senior duo of guard Imani Wright and forward Shakayla Thomas — who were held to four points combined. Meanwhile, the Panther offense shot an efficient seven of 13 from the field, including three-for-five from behind the 3-point line, to take a 17-16 lead by the end of the period.
The second quarter saw a drastic dip in scoring for both teams. The Seminoles shot just 17.6 percent from the field and managed seven points in the period, while the Panthers shot a similar 18.2 percent and mustered nine points. Still, Pitt maintained a 26-23 lead over its opponent entering halftime.
Redshirt junior forward Yacine Diop and sophomore guard Alayna Gribble led the Panthers at the half with seven points each. Alix carried the offensive load for the Seminoles, netting all five of her 3-pointers for a team-high 15 points.
The two teams battled in the third quarter, with neither able to separate. The Seminoles took the lead back after a layup by Thomas with one minute left, but a three from sophomore guard Jasmine Whitney gave the Panthers a 41-40 advantage heading into the last period.
Alix continued to be a thorn in the Panthers’ side, as the guard drained another three — her seventh of the game — to give the Seminoles a 53-49 lead with 4:27 left in the game.
“The game plan coming in was to limit Thomas and Wright,” McConnell-Serio said. “Alix going seven of nine on threes, that obviously wasn’t expected. But she hit two early, and we failed to adjust.”
It would be another three minutes before Pitt scored on a three by junior guard Kauai Bradley. By that time it was too late, as the Panthers trailed 58-52 with 1:30 remaining.
“The difference was they capitalized off of our mistakes late in the game,” Whitney said. “We have to work on finishing games. We’re close, but we just need to get better at closing out those late-game situations.”
The Panthers began to foul and Florida State knocked down its ensuing free throws to secure a 66-59 victory.
Gribble led the Panthers in points with 13, on three-of-five 3-point shooting, followed by Diop and Bradley with 12 each.
“A game like this, despite the loss, is a confidence booster,” Gribble said. “In the future, we just need to work on taking better shots, and not playing so defensively when we have the lead.”
The Panthers will take a week off before their next game on the road against Boston College on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 1 p.m.