Panthers come up short on the road, fall to Hokies 75-65


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Pitt junior guard Destiny Strother (31) prepares to shoot at a game against North Carolina State University at Petersen Events Center on Dec. 10, 2021.

By Alexander Ganias, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s basketball (10-8, 1-6 ACC) traveled to Blacksburg, Virginia on Thursday and came up short against Virginia Tech (14-4, 6-1 ACC), falling to the Hokies 75-65. The Hokies came into this game as one of the top teams in the ACC, despite not being ranked in the AP Top 25. The Panthers came in looking for their second straight conference win, after taking down Wake Forest on Jan. 16.

Virginia Tech came bursting through the gates on their home court, shooting a combined 7-17 from the field, including 5-9 from beyond the arc. Junior center Elizabeth Kitley and junior guard Cayla King propelled the offensive efficiency for the Hokies. Kitley scored the first two buckets on mid-range jumpers and King had all nine of her first-quarter points come from the 3-point line.

The Panthers held their breath early in the frame, when senior guard Jayla Everett fell and hit her head on an opponent’s knee while trying to dish a pass for redshirt sophomore forward Cynthia Ezeja. She left the game for a little bit, but returned a couple minutes later.

Pitt did not go quietly in the opening frame. The defense registered four blocks in the first quarter and held the Hokies scoreless for the last three minutes. The quarter ended with the Panthers trailing 23-15.

The second quarter did not go as well for the Panthers, as the Hokies outscored them 23-12, extending their halftime lead to 19 points. There were several factors that affected Tech’s extended run — Pitt missed several point-blank attempts and the Hokies answered with 3-pointers on the other end. Tech shot 7-13 from beyond the arc in the first half to take a commanding 46-27 lead.

The statistical comparisons were stark in the first half. The Hokies shot 45% from the field in the first 20 minutes, while Pitt shot just 28%. And while both teams only missed one free throw each, Tech shot 13-14 from the line compared to Pitt’s 5-6.

Junior guard Dayshanette Harris finished the half with 10 points, helping her become the fastest player in Pitt history to score 700 career points. It took her 60 games to reach the milestone.

Momentum started to shift in the third quarter. King left the game after she was inadvertently hit hard in the nose by a Pitt player. The Panthers tried to take advantage, and they outscored the Hokies 19-15 in the frame. But Kitley had her way with the ball, scoring 11 points in the quarter on 4-7 shooting. The rest of the Hokies only had four points in that third quarter as they led 61-46.

Pitt’s comeback attempt started in the fourth quarter when it went on a 9-0 run. The Panthers shaved a 16-point deficit down to seven in just three minutes. They had some more chances to shave the gap even more, but the previously hot shooting went ice cold as they missed their next six shots.

After some defensive stops for both teams, Virginia Tech sophomore guard Georgia Amoore passed up an open 3-point shot late in the shot clock and paid the price. Everett poked the ball away, dribbled up the floor and forced Amoore to commit her fifth and final foul. Amoore left the game with 14 points.

Everett sank her two resulting free throws to bring Pitt within five with just more than a minute left. But its aggressive defense missed the Hokies’ junior guard Azana Baines cutting to the basket, as her only bucket of the game stifled the Pitt comeback.

Everett eventually hit a three to get within four, but at that point, the Hokies were in the bonus and hit all six of their final free throws. Despite Pitt outsourcing the Hokies 38-29 in the second half, the Hokies held on for the 75-65 victory.

Harris finished the game with 22 points and Everett finished with 20 points. On the other side, Kitley wound up with a game-high 27 points on 10-17 shooting. The Hokies made all of their 3-pointers in the first half, but those seven in the first half were enough to push them over the top.

The Panthers will return home to host No. 19 Notre Dame on Sunday, Jan. 23. The game will start at 2 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.