Panthers win first ACC game, beat Wake 53-48


Kaycee Orwig | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt women’s basketball celebrates after breaking a two-month losing streak with a win against Wake Forest.

By Dominic Campbell, Senior Staff Writer

Trailing by double digits to Wake Forest in the third quarter, the Pitt women’s basketball team looked destined to lose yet another ACC game at home Thursday night.

Instead, the Panthers picked up the tempo, locked down on defense and won their first ACC game this season. The 53-48 victory also snapped a 12-game overall losing streak, with Pitt’s last win coming a full two months earlier on Nov. 30.

The Panthers (4-16 overall, 1-8 ACC) hadn’t won an ACC game since Feb. 28 of last season, which also came against the Demon Deacons (12-9 overall, 5-5 ACC). That and Thursday’s win bookended 10 straight ACC losses.

“It’s a process that we have to keep building over and over and over,” head coach Lance White said afterward. “We never know when we’re going to get rewarded for it. You just got to keep your head down and keep working and that’s been our mantra all year long and these kids have bought into it. And they just keep coming back, working, working, working.”

The backcourt trio of first-year Dayshanette Harris, fifth-year Aysia Bugg and junior Gabbie Green carried the Panthers offensively, scoring 13, 12 and 12 points respectively.

It was a tale of two halves for the Panthers, as they started the game abysmally. Pitt scored just eight points in the first quarter and nine in the second, and recorded almost as many turnovers (13) as it did combined points (17) in the first half. The Panthers also missed all six 3-point attempts and Harris, who finished as Pitt’s leading scorer, had zero points at the break.

Wake Forest, however, didn’t perform much better, shooting 9-31 from the field to lead 23-17 at halftime.

The Demon Deacons maintained their advantage through the outset of the second half, leading by 12 points with 2:01 remaining in the third quarter. They made their money at the foul line, making eight of 11 free throws. 

It was at that point Pitt began its furious comeback, thanks to Harris. She completely changed her mindset offensively, driving to the hoop and finding open mid-range jumpers that she knocked down with ease.

Junior guard Gabbie Green made Pitt’s first 3-pointer of the game with 30 seconds remaining, and the Panthers entered the fourth quarter trailing by a manageable six points, 39-33. Pitt’s 16 third-quarter points came one shy of its entire first-half total.

The Panthers stayed hot from the field in the fourth quarter, as Green hit a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game 30 seconds in. 

After Bugg responded with a 3-pointer to a Wake Forest bucket, Harris connected on a great step-back jumper that gave Pitt the lead with 2:48 remaining — one it wouldn’t lose for the rest of the game. 

First-year forward Rita Igbokwe scored Pitt’s final field goal to go up 49-46 with 2:02 remaining. From there, defense and free-throw shooting carried the Panthers to victory. 

Leading by three with 38 seconds remaining, Igbokwe made another big play, this time on defense, by swatting a layup attempt from Wake Forest junior guard Gina Conti. Conti then drew a foul on Igbokwe that forced her to leave the game with five fouls, but she missed both free throws and kept Pitt’s lead at three. 

The Panthers had a tough time making foul shots late in the final minute of play, shooting 4-8 from the line and keeping the Demon Deacons in a game that should’ve been put away earlier.

Trailing 51-48, the Demon Deacons took a timeout with 10 seconds remaining. They drew up a play to get a 3-pointer, but the scheme collapsed and Conti chucked up an attempt that missed. After a rebound and two made free throws from Bugg, the Panthers finally got their signature win.

Pitt completely flipped the script in the second half, shooting 14-30 from the field compared to 8-35 for Wake Forest. The Panthers also outscored their opponent 20-9 in that final quarter.

The Panthers notably defended junior forward Ivana Raca, who came into the game averaging an ACC fifth-best 17 points per game. Against Pitt, she shot 3-15 from the field and scored only nine points.

Next, Pitt will host its annual Pink the Petersen game Saturday at 5 p.m. against White’s former team, No. 14 ranked Florida State. Hoping for a good turnout for Saturday’s game — in which a portion of the proceeds support breast cancer research — White voiced his support for the fans that have stuck by Pitt despite all the losses.

“The fans at Pitt have been phenomenal,” White said. “To stay with us game after game and know that we’re going to get there and it’s just going to take a little bit of time for us to get to the point where we’re competitive every night with every team in the ACC.”