Panthers’ ACC trip comes to disappointing halt


The clock ticked a little closer to midnight for the Pitt women’s basketball team’s Cinderella season, as the No. 7-seed Panthers fell to the No. 15-seed Virginia Tech Hokies by a final score of 51-45 in the second round of the ACC Tournament.

The contest, which took place in Greensboro, N.C., started off promising enough for Pitt (19-11, 9-7 ACC). Head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio’s squad jumped out to an early 10-3 lead after the first eight minutes of the ballgame, thanks in part to five points by freshman Stasha Carey.

Virginia Tech (12-19, 1-15 ACC) would fight back, tying the game up at 14 points each with 7:06 remaining in the first half. Still, the Panthers would not trail until 35 seconds remained in the half, as sophomore forward Sidney Cook converted a layup out of a timeout to give the Hokies a 17-15 advantage.

The two teams traded baskets to end the half, and Pitt headed into halftime trailing 19-17. They would not lead for the remainder of the night.

The Panthers kept clawing their way back into the contest, even tying the game at 31-31 with 11:20 remaining in the second half, but the team’s lack of consistency at the free throw line prevented Pitt from making a serious push. The struggles served as the team’s kiss of death in a close and winnable postseason game. 

Despite averaging 70.9 percent on free throw attempts in the regular season, the Panthers were atrocious from the charity stripe on Thursday, going 10-24, good for a 41.7 percent mark.

On the other side of the box score, Pitt’s opponents thrived at the line, shooting a lights-out 11-13 (84.6 percent), which served as a deciding difference in a game in which both teams shot under 32 percent from the field.

The Panthers had no answer for Hokies sophomore guard Vanessa Panousis, who totaled a game-high 20 points while going 4-11 from beyond the arc and 6-6 on free throw attempts.

Pitt senior guard and first-team All-ACC member Brianna Kiesel struggled throughout the evening, tallying nine points (half of her per-game average for the regular season), though she did tally 10 rebounds. Carey led all Pitt scorers with 13 and recorded 10 boards as well.

With the win, Virginia Tech advances to take on the No. 2 seed Florida State Seminoles on Friday.

While the loss potentially created a severe blemish on the Panthers’ tournament resumé, the team will find out their fate for sure on March 16 when the NCAA officially unveils the 2015 field of 64.