Death by fouls and free throws: Women’s basketball drops close contest

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Lucas Zheng | Staff Photographer

Pitt women’s basketball lost 81-72 against North Carolina at home this afternoon.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s basketball (4-9, 2-8 ACC) continued its recent cold-streak futility with its fifth loss in a row, this time against North Carolina (10-8, 5-8 ACC) with a score of 81-72. This comes on the heels of a matchup where Pitt surrendered a late lead to Wake Forest and lost in overtime.

Head Coach Lance White acknowledged postgame that the Panthers have been on the short end of several close games.

“That’s what’s so encouraging about this group, there’s no quit in them and that gives me hope for where we’re going,” White said. “But at the same time you’re still losing, and that’s a hard thing to know.”

Pitt played the Tar Heels close for the first five minutes of the first quarter. Junior guard Jayla Everett came away with a steal and five points. After a timeout halfway through the period, UNC started to pull away after shooting 40% from the field and three of eight from deep.

The Tar Heels also hit all six of their free throws in the first frame, while Pitt didn’t make any of its five. The quarter ended with Pitt trailing 21-13.

The second quarter would start in a similar way, with each team matching buckets. The Tar Heels scored 21 points in that quarter, and the Panthers nearly matched it with 20 points of their own. However, Pitt did not attempt a single free throw in the second frame. North Carolina went to the line 12 times, and hit nine of those attempts. The half ended with Pitt down by nine points, 42-33.

Sophomore guard Dayshanette Harris noted that the free throw disparity was a huge issue, and that getting to the line was as important as preventing the opponent from doing the same.

“Our bigs are big enough to stand up tall, and our guards have to stand our ground,” Harris said. “We have to be disciplined, and on offense we have to attack more.”

The Tar Heels went 26-31 at the charity stripe, where the Panthers went 10-16. UNC senior center Janelle Bailey scored 22 points on Sunday, and 10 of those ticks came from free throws.

Second-chance opportunities were also a huge factor in Sunday’s game. Pitt grabbed 22 offensive rebounds, eight more than North Carolina’s 14. But UNC scored 19 second-chance points, to Pitt’s 18. White described how the Panthers can work on that problem.

“We just have to focus and be strong enough to jump up and score, or turn down shots to get better ones,” White said. “I still think we rush, and we have to learn that part of it is possessions matter more.”

The Panthers started to show some frustration in the third quarter. Their first possession of the half led to a turnover, after some miscommunication between sophomore forward Amber Brown and Everett. The two players had a slightly heated discussion, but regrouped shortly after and got back on defense.

Later in the frame, sophomore center Rita Igbokwe got called for a foul on Bailey, her third at the time. She did not like the call and reacted accordingly, which resulted in a technical foul. Bailey was also given a tech on the play, as she thought the call should’ve been called sooner.

White noticed this frustration, and pointed out the importance of the discussions on the sideline.

“It’s frustrating that our last two games have come down to the final moments and we’ve come up on the short [end] both times,” White said. “We’re an emotional team, that causes some of our un-discipline and we have to level all that stuff out during the timeouts.”

The period ended with UNC holding its largest lead of the game, 62-48.

The Panthers saved their best basketball for the final frame. They outscored the Tar Heels 24-19, and made all seven of their free throws. Everett scored 12 of her 22 points in the period, and Harris added three assists. But the Tar Heels hit timely threes when the deficit started shrinking. Crucial turnovers from Harris and Everett late in the game sealed the 81-72 win for North Carolina.

While free throw shooting and composure were new problems in this game, the Panthers suffered from the familiar setbacks of fouls and turnovers. Pitt turned the ball over 14 times to UNC’s nine, and committed 25 fouls to UNC’s 15. Redshirt freshman forward Cynthia Ezeja fouled out of the game and Igbokwe almost followed with four fouls of her own.

Harris stressed the importance of team chemistry, especially during such a frustrating stretch.

“We just lean on one another, and pick each other up,” Harris said. “Once we see someone’s frustrated, the whole team goes over and picks them up.”

Harris finished with 14 points, seven assists and three steals.

Next up, The Panthers will travel up to Chestnut Hill to face off against Boston College on Tuesday. This will be their first matchup against the Eagles, since the last two games between the two teams were postponed.

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