Following a win against Wake Forest in its last game to earn its second ACC win, the Pitt women’s basketball team faced a tall order on Sunday’s senior night — the No. 3 Louisville Cardinals. The Cardinals cruised to a win over the Panthers in their last home game of the season, 67-40.
The loss concludes the regular season, giving the Panthers an 11-19 overall and 2-14 ACC record while the Cardinals finished 27-2 overall and 14-2 in the ACC. Pitt finishes 14th out of 15 ACC teams in its first year under head coach Lance White — the same placement as last year’s team under his predecessor, Suzie McConnell-Serio.
Despite the loss, White believes that the Panthers improved from their last meeting with Louisville on Jan. 27.
“I still think from the first time we played them to now, the growth in our basketball team is huge,” White said. “You can’t tell it by some of the numbers, but we’re a different basketball team than we were one month ago, two months ago, and that’s what I wanted. I wanted it to be about growth and our kids have come to work everyday and challenged each other and challenged me as their coach to keep finding ways to get better, and so for that I’m extremely honored and humbled.”
White also mentioned the role the seniors played throughout the season in helping him acclimate to a new environment.
“For what they have done for this program and for me this year and for buying into somebody new and they didn’t know,” White said. “I really tip my hat to them.”
Louisville quickly gained a 9-2 lead early on in the game, prompting White to take a timeout with 6:40 remaining in the first quarter. Senior forward Sam Fuehring was instrumental for the Cardinals, knocking down a 3-pointer and a mid-range jumper. Pitt only managed a fast-break layup from senior guard Cassidy Walsh during the run.
The Panthers took control following the timeout, countering with an 11-6 run that closed the gap to two at the start of the second quarter. Sophomore center Cara Judkins scored four points in the paint, Walsh hit from the 3-point range and both senior forward Danielle Garven and junior guard Jasmine Whitney hit jumpers to make the score 15-13.
Pitt shot a decent 6-13 from the field and 1-3 from 3-point range in the first quarter, while Louisville shot just 7-21 from the field, including an abysmal 1-9 on 3-pointers. The Cardinals won the rebounding battle 12-8, which included five rebounds from junior forward Bionca Dunham.
The second quarter began evenly, as both Judkins and Garven scored layups for the Panthers while sophomore guard Dana Evans made a jumper, Kylee Shook made a layup and Fuehring made a foul shot for the Cardinals, keeping them in the lead at 20-17 with 7:07 left before halftime.
Louisville then exploded with a 12-1 run to effectively end any chance of a Pitt comeback. Junior guard Jazmine Jones’ play on the offensive end was crucial as she scored six points on three layups, with both Asia Durr and Evans also contributing 3-pointers. A free throw from Judkins with 40 seconds remaining ended a six-minute Pitt scoring drought, and the Panthers ended the half down 32-18.
The Panthers struggled to make shots in the second quarter, scoring only five points and shooting 2-12 from the field. Pitt outrebounded Louisville 10-9 in the quarter but Louisville earned more steals, taking the ball six times to Pitt’s zero.
Louisville continued its effective play in the third quarter, opening on a 10-3 run that consisted of five layups from five different Cardinal players — Fuehring, Dunham, Durr, Jones and Shook. Walsh made another 3-pointer — the only move Pitt could muster during the run.
Pitt then went on a 9-2 run of its own. Whitney made two free throws and a jumper, Judkins scored down low and Walsh made her third 3-pointer of the game to make the score 44-30 with 1:12 remaining in the quarter.
The Cardinals got a 3-pointer from Evans and a jumper from Arica Carter to get the lead up to 19 going into the fourth quarter. They improved their shooting again in the third quarter, going 8-14 from the field. The Panthers still shot poorly, going 4-12 from the field but managing 2-4 from 3-point range.
Trailing 49-30, Pitt started the fourth quarter on a respectable 7-4 run. The Panthers got an and-one conversion from Garven, a jumper from Whitney and a layup from senior forward Kauai Bradley.
But the Cardinals couldn’t be outscored in any quarter and responded with a 14-3 run to win by a comfortable 27 points. Durr helped Louisville pull away in the fourth, scoring eight straight points on a 3-pointer, plus an and-one layup and another layup. Meanwhile, Pitt could only get a jumper from Garven and a free throw from sophomore forward Jaala Henry during the run.
Durr finished with a team-high of 17 points and White wasn’t surprised, saying that she is one of the best players in the ACC he has seen in his over 15 years of being in the conference.
“Her mindset is so good,” he said. “She just works so hard to be able to make hard shots that so few players want to spend the time that it takes to be that good. She works for everything that she gets. She is the first one in the gym, she’s the last one to leave and that’s a testament to who she is.”
In her last game at the Petersen Events Center, Walsh — a Pittsburgh native — talked about her personal growth and the program’s culture shift under White.
“I think this year, being my last year, it has been a grind every single day and a lot of excitement throughout every single day,” Walsh said. “Coach White and his staff, the energy they have brought every single game and every single day in practice, no matter the time of day, has been so consistent. I think the energy has been phenomenal. No matter if we are down 20, down 40 or up five, coach has made us be consistent and with a great mindset.”
With the regular season over, the Panthers now look to the first round of the ACC tournament this Wednesday as the No. 14 seed. They’ll take on No. 11 seed Duke at 6:30 p.m. in Greensboro, North Carolina.