The Pitt women’s basketball team extended its losing streak Thursday night as they were chased down by the No. 21 NC State Wolfpack, 77-66.
The Panthers (10-18 overall, 2-13 ACC) failed to capitalize on a strong early start as the Wolfpack (22-6 overall, 11-4 ACC) stymied the Panthers’ offense after the first quarter and thrived at the free throw line, sinking 28 of their 33 attempts.
“They had 33 free throws, and we shot 13, but if we are going to shoot 13 we need to have a better percentage than what we did,” head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “It was way too many free throws and that was the difference in the game.”
The Panthers started the game with offensive rhythm as they captured an early 16-11 lead going into the first media time-out. Redshirt junior forward Yacine Diop started the game with 12 of the team’s first 16 points, shooting a perfect 5-5 from the field.
The Panthers continued their great start with junior center Kalista Walters converting an and-1, making the score 19-11 with about four and a half minutes to play in the first quarter. The Wolfpack answered right away by going on an 11-4 run to close out the first quarter, taking advantage of Panther turnovers.
“At one point we were there with them but then we started turning the ball over,” Diop said. “I don’t know if it’s because we started getting tired, but we just need to learn to control and win a game.”
To start the second quarter, NC State went on a 9-0 run to reclaim the lead, 31-25, with sophomore guard Aislinn Konig leading the way for the Wolfpack.
The Panthers cut the NC State lead to 35-32 after baskets from Diop and junior guard Cassidy Walsh on consecutive Pitt possessions, but NC State regained momentum to lead 49-34 at halftime. The Wolfpack ended the half on a 10-0 run over the final two minutes.
It was a competitive start to the second as the Panthers shortened the Wolfpack. Sophomore guard Alayna Gribble added two 3-point buckets for the Panthers to bring them within four, trailing 48-44.
But the Wolfpack once again finished the quarter on an offensive tear.
NC State senior forward Chelsea Nelson dropped nine points in the third quarter, pushing her total for the game to 22 and helping her team maintain a 61-49 advantage going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter started out with both sides trading scoring. After a Pitt foul and a media timeout, NC State led 66-55.
The Panthers struggled in the paint all night, getting outrebounded 33-20. The Panthers inside struggles got worse when Walters fouled out with three minutes left to play. From there, the Wolfpack continued to expose the Panthers on defense for the remainder of the game securing a 77-66 victory.
Senior forward Chelsea Nelson turned in a strong performance for the Wolfpack, scoring 30 points and grabbing seven boards. The Panthers had three players finish with double-digit scoring with sophomore guard Jasmine Whitney, Walters and Diop scoring 15, 15 and 20 respectively.
“I would say confidence is a big factor,” Whitney said. “Coach is kind of giving me more of a string on the court, more freedom to control the game as much as possible. It helps that my teammates are getting open and hitting shots.”
Despite shooting an impressive 53 percent from the field, the game was characterized by the lack of an inside presence for the Panthers. The Panthers were dominated on the glass, getting outrebounded 37-21.
The Wolfpack excelled at the free throw line. NC State made 28 of 33 free throws on the night while the Panthers only connected on seven of their 13 attempts. The Panthers also struggled to hold onto the ball, recording 16 turnovers.
The Panthers will look to snap their five-game skid Sunday as they take on the No. 4 Louisville Cardinals in Kentucky. Tip-off is at 2 p.m.