Shooting struggles sink Pitt at Syracuse, 71-53


Thomas Yang | Assistant Visual Editor

First-year guard Emy Hayford navigates around Duke’s Azana Baines. Pitt lost to Syracuse Sunday 53-71.

By Dominic Campbell, Senior Staff Writer

Pitt women’s basketball traveled to Syracuse, New York, on Sunday, hoping to exact revenge on a team that had already beaten Pitt earlier in the season. The Panthers were unable to do so, ultimately falling 71-53 at the Carrier Dome, but not before achieving a program milestone.

The starting lineup for the Panthers (4-21 overall, 1-13 ACC) against the Orange (14-11 overall, 8-6 ACC) was made up of four first-year players — guards Amber Brown, Emy Hayford, Dayshanette Harris and forward Rita Igbokwe. Junior guard Gabbie Green rounded out the opening five. All of these players were recruited by head coach Lance White. Sunday marks the first time in his career at Pitt that his starting lineup consists entirely of players he recruited.

But the game itself provided little hope for the future White’s starters represented. Syracuse trailed 5-4 with seven minutes to go in the first quarter, but ultimately cruised to an easy victory.

The Orange didn’t find offensive success in their overall shooting, as they posted a pedestrian 39.3% mark from the field. Rather, it was 3-point shooting and free throws that separated them from the Panthers.

Syracuse made eight 3-pointers on 34 attempts, while the Panthers only made one of 13 attempts. This is the second straight game that the Panthers have made just one 3-pointer. They have made only five 3-pointers in their last three games combined, for a total shooting rate of 5-50.

Syracuse’s free-throw efficiency was even better, making 15 of its 18 attempts, while Pitt shot 12-22, cementing the Panthers spot as the worst free-throw-shooting school in the ACC. Pitt makes just 60.8% of its foul shots.

The Orange were able to build a big lead early in the first half, going up 24-12 after the first quarter and then extending that lead at halftime to 14 at 38-24.

While they outclassed the Panthers on offense, the Orange’s best tactic came with the use of the full-court press, something they used in its last meeting with Pitt to great success, as they hounded the Panthers all game long.

Just as in the previous meeting, Pitt was not necessarily devastated by the turnover margin. Both teams recorded identical turnover numbers at 17. Rather, they were forced to use much of the shot clock and their energy trying to break the press down and then had little time to set up half-court offense to work against Syracuse’s zone.

This became more apparent in the third quarter, when the Panthers turned the ball over six times and fell behind the Orange by 24 at 59-35.

Despite being en route to another blowout, Pitt finished out the game on a positive note by outscoring Syracuse 18-12 in the fourth quarter.

In her first game back after being elbowed in the face last Sunday against Notre Dame, Harris led the Panthers with 18 points on 7-16 shooting. Her outstanding offensive night came primarily by driving to the basket and separating space with her signature stepback mid-range jumper. Brown was also an offensive threat, posting up down in the paint and scoring 14 points for her third consecutive game with double-digit scoring.

The Orange were led by redshirt junior guard Kiara Lewis, who led her team with 19 points on the day, and junior forward Digna Strautmane, who scored a season-high 18 points on 7-14 shooting and made a trio of 3-pointers.

In its next game, Pitt will return to the road to finish up its home-and-home series with Boston College on Thursday.