Carey leads Pitt to first-round NCAA Tournament victory over Chattanooga


By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

Stasha Carey did not lie when she said before Saturday’s NCAA Tournament game that nerves would not play a factor in her performance.

“I’m kind of used to being put on a bigger stage, so I’ll shake off the nerves before I get there,” the freshman forward said.

Carey played like an experienced NCAA Tournament veteran, scoring 16 points and collecting 13 rebounds — both team highs — to lead Pitt (20-11, 9-7 ACC) to a 51-40 victory over No. 7 seed Chattanooga on Saturday.

Pitt jumped out to an early 11-2 lead with Carey and senior point guard Brianna Kiesel spearheading the attack.

But Chattanooga (29-4, 14-0 Southern) struck back early in the game, mostly by drawing several offensive fouls on driving Pitt players.

The Mocs used an extended 15-8 run to come within two and trail only 19-17 with 5:36 remaining in the first half.

Kiesel, who led Pitt all season in scoring with 18.2 points per game, made the team’s final bucket of the half on a layup. The basket gave the Panthers a 25-21 halftime lead. Carey dominated the boards in the half, grabbing eight rebounds to accompany her five first-half points.

In the second half, Kiesel hit a jumper and Carey made two free throws in the first three minutes to extend Pitt’s lead to eight points.

With 11 minutes remaining in the game, Chattanooga’s junior guard Alicia Payne hit two free throws to again bring the Mocs within two points, 35-33.

But that was the closest the No. 7 seed would come to taking the lead.

Pitt used a 7-0 run and six minutes of shutout defense to build a lead with less than five minutes in the game that it would not give up. The Panthers never trailed in the game.

Carey continued her dominance late in the game, assisting a layup by freshman guard Aysia Bugg, then collecting a loose ball and scoring while drawing a foul in the process. She hit the extra free throw with five minutes remaining to extend Pitt’s lead to 10 at 45-35.

Chattanooga entered the game riding a 25-game winning streak, the third-longest in the country.

Kiesel scored 13 points and handed out four assists. Senior center Cora McManus provided some instant offense off the bench, tacking on five points on 2-of-3 shooting.

Sophomore forward Jasmine Joyner led Chattanooga with 10 points before fouling out late in the game.

Pitt will next play the winner of No. 2 seed Tennessee and No. 15 seed Boise St.

The game will tip off at 6:30 on Monday on ESPN2.