Thanksgiving Recap: Volleyball, basketball gobble up wins

Sophomore+Chinaza+Ndee+celebrates+during+the+Panthers%E2%80%99+3-0+victory+over+Georgia+Tech+on+Wednesday.
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Thanksgiving Recap: Volleyball, basketball gobble up wins

Sophomore Chinaza Ndee celebrates during the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

Sophomore Chinaza Ndee celebrates during the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Sophomore Chinaza Ndee celebrates during the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Kaycee Orwig | Staff Photographer

Sophomore Chinaza Ndee celebrates during the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over Georgia Tech on Wednesday.

By Kate Hall, Staff Writer

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Pitt football faced a tough loss Saturday against ACC rival Miami. However, three other Panther sports picked up the slack with a winning weekend both home and away.

Football

Pitt football finished its regular season Saturday with a 24-3 loss against Miami at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens. The Hurricanes dominated the whole game, leaving fans feeling doubtful about Pitt entering the postseason.

The Hurricanes’ defense stepped up, holding a Panther offense that has averaged 232.7 rushing yards per game this season to just 69 rushing yards. Being held to fewer than 100 yards of rushing offense hurt the Panthers, who have grown accustomed to running all over teams.

Things were still close in the first half of the game. After the first quarter, Miami took a three-point lead thanks to a 37-yard field goal from first-year kicker Bubba Baxa. Then in the second quarter, a 65-yard punt return gave the Hurricanes a 10-0 lead going into the half.

Pitt’s only points of the game came in the third quarter, when redshirt sophomore kicker Alex Kessman hit a field goal to make the score 10-3. While Pitt’s offense had trouble scoring, its defense began to unravel as well. The Hurricanes scored two more touchdowns — one in the third quarter and one in the fourth quarter — to win the game comfortably.

Pitt’s biggest problems were sloppy play and an inability to convert on downs — the Panthers committed 10 penalties for 100 yards and went just one of 15 on third downs. Throw in the fact that sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett took a season-high six sacks and the offense gained a season-low 200 total yards, and it was a thoroughly ugly showing from Pitt.

Pitt will look to get back on track in the ACC Championship game against undefeated No. 2 Clemson this Saturday in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Women’s Volleyball

Pitt volleyball closed out its regular season Nov. 21 at the Petersen Events Center against Georgia Tech, beating them in three straight matches. Pitt finished the regular season with a 29-1 record, its best ever, and its first 29-win season since 1990. Pitt was also announced as the No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday night and will host its first two rounds at home.

The first set had two early ties, but the Panthers went on a 4-0 run to gain a comfortable lead against the Yellow Jackets. Georgia eventually pushed back, cutting the Panther lead to one point, but that was as close as it would get as Pitt started to pull away. Redshirt junior Stephanie Williams sealed the Panthers’ 25-19 victory with an ace from the service line.

The Panthers never gave up their lead in the second set, but like in the first, the Yellow Jackets were threatening. On two occasions Georgia came within one point of the Panthers before Pitt was finally able to put it away with a 25-18 win. The Panthers started the third set with an early 3-0 run that never stopped. Pitt finished the set with a 25-10 win, sweeping the Jackets 3-0 in the match.

Pitt outscored Georgia Tech in all categories. Redshirt sophomore Kylee Levers led the team with 19 assists. Junior Nika Markovic led the team with 12 kills. Redshirt seniors Angela Seman and Kamalani Akeo led the Panthers with eight digs each in the match.

The Panthers will continue their pursuit of an NCAA championship title Friday, Nov. 30, when they host Iona at the Petersen Events Center in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Pitt will also host the second round of the tournament, which will feature the winners of Pitt vs. Iona and Michigan vs. Navy.

Men’s Basketball

The Panthers traveled to their first away game of the season Nov. 21 against St. Louis University at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. In its toughest game of the season so far, Pitt came away with the 75-73 win, remaining undefeated and improving to 6-0 this season.

The close contest was defined by 12 lead changes, leaving Pitt scrambling for points toward the end of the game. With 1:19 remaining, first-year point guard Xavier Johnson made a layup to make the score 72-70, giving Pitt the two-point lead. With less than a minute remaining, St. Louis had a chance to tie the game up when Pitt head coach Jeff Capel elected to foul sophomore forward Hasahn French. The gamble paid off — French airballed the first shot of a one-and-one, giving Pitt the ball back.

With four seconds left and Pitt up by two, Johnson was fouled and stepped up to the line, making both free throws to make the score 74-40 and secure the win.

Javon Bess made a buzzer beating 3-pointer for St. Louis, but it wasn’t enough — Pitt still led 74-73. Graduate student Sidy N’Dir was then fouled and made his free throw to help the Panthers remain undefeated.

Johnson led the team with 20 points, followed by redshirt junior Malik Ellison with 13 points.

Pitt will face No. 20 Iowa at the Carver Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa, Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Women’s Basketball

The Women’s basketball team headed to Nashville Friday, Nov. 23, for the Challenge in the Music City round-robin tournament. The Panthers went 2-1 on the weekend, beating Arkansas and Tennessee State and losing to undefeated Wisconsin to improve to 4-4 on the season.

Despite its 57-42 loss, Pitt fought hard against Wisconsin for the first three quarters. The Badgers pulled away in the final quarter, going on a 23-8 run to seal the victory.

The teams were tied 10 times and had nine lead changes throughout the game. Pitt was able to outscore Wisconsin in first and third quarters. Senior Danielle Garven led the team in scoring with 15 points — she also had a career day at the free throw line, going 7-10.

The tournament continued Saturday night when the Panthers beat the Razorbacks 61-54.

Pitt had seven different players score in the first quarter to earn a 17-10 lead. Things were quieter in the second quarter when both teams scored only eight points each, making the score 25-18 Pitt going into the half.

The Panthers dominated the third quarter, outscoring the Razorbacks 12-5 and finishing the quarter with a 46-38 lead. The Razorbacks fought back in the fourth, cutting the Panther lead to just three with 3:06 left to play, but the Panthers embarked on an 8-2 run with two minutes remaining to secure the win.

Pitt led the Razorbacks in almost all categories. Senior Kalista Walters led in scoring with 15 points.

The Panthers completed the tournament Sunday night with a 78-56 win over Tennessee State. Garven was named to the All-Tournament Team after scoring a season-best 17 points.

Pitt started hot with an 18-8 lead in the first quarter. Their energy carried over to the second quarter when Pitt scored 23 points.

The last two quarters saw the same offensive action as the Panthers put up 20 points in the third giving them a 61-38 lead. Pitt sealed the deal in the fourth quarter with a 25 point lead, its biggest of the game.

The Panthers will return Thursday, Nov. 29, against Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

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