‘Have to be a tougher basketball team’: Panthers fall to Blue Devils 54-39


Colleen Nguyen | For the Pitt News

Pitt junior guard Emy Hayford at Thursday night’s game against Duke University at the Petersen Events Center.

By Brian Sherry, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s basketball hosted the Duke Blue Devils Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center. The Blue Devils prevailed over the Panthers 54-39 in a low-scoring game with plenty of turnovers. This loss marks the Panther’s fourth loss in their last five games.

Offense proved to be an issue for Panthers throughout the game, tying their season low performance in points scored. Head coach Lance White was disappointed with the effort on offense — especially with scoring in the paint.

“Obviously disappointed with the offensive end of the floor,” White said. “You miss so many points in the paint then you don’t have a chance to win.”

Pitt’s offensive struggles began early as the up-tempo Blue Devils shut down the Panthers to begin the game, outscoring the Panthers 15-4 in the first quarter. The Duke forward tandem of fifth-year forward Lexi Gordon and senior Onome Akinbode-James led the early Blue Devil run, scoring a combined 13 points in the first quarter. The Blue Devils held the lead for the remainder of the game.

White attributed the slow start to missed assignments, as well as low shooting percentages from starting guard duo of senior guard Jayda Everett and junior guard Dayshanette Harris.

Pitt faces off against Duke University at the Petersen Events Center on Thursday night.
(Colleen Nguyen | For the Pitt News )

“We missed assignments early, and then it breaks us,” White said. “Whenever [Jayda Everett] and [Dayshanette Harris] shoot those percentages, then it’s really hard for us to generate enough offense in the other parts to overcome ACC caliber teams.”

The Panthers showed signs of life to begin the second quarter. An acrobatic layup off a foul from sophomore guard Sandrine Clesca kicked off the quarter, and the Panthers outscored the Blue Devils 14-11 in the second frame. Pitt junior guard Emy Hayford credited the team’s defense with bringing energy back into the offense.

“I feel like we stuck with it,” Hayford said. “We got a lot of energy from defense, so I’m really happy that our defense stayed the same.”

The Panthers also drastically increased their field goal shooting percentage in the second quarter, improving from 7.7% in the first period to 40% in the second. Hayford said trusting their shooting is what helped the team tweak their percentage after an abysmal first quarter. 

“We kept telling each other they [the shots] are going to fall,” Hayford said. “It’s just a mental thing, we got to trust that the shots are going to fall and we can’t keep thinking about the shots we missed.”

Turnovers also proved to be an early issue for both teams, with each team turning the ball over nine times in the first half alone. The Panthers have struggled with turnovers all season, ranking last in the ACC in turnover margin.

The Panthers failed to make up any ground in coming into the second half. Duke senior guard Miela Goodchild scored a quick three pointer to open up the third quarter. The Panthers showed flashes on offense, but the team couldn’t make up the deficit. The Blue Devils ultimately won the third period, outscoring the Panthers 13-11.

Offense once again proved to be an issue for the Panthers in crunch time. The team only managed to score 10 points in the fourth quarter. A six-point quarter performance from Duke first year guard Shayeann Day-Wilson was enough to close out the game for the Blue Devils.

The Panthers finished the game without a single player scoring more than 10 points. White expressed concern that the team still has not found a star player to step up and have big performances.

“You just have to have big time players make big time plays,” White said. “And we just haven’t had those players step up yet to be able to do it.”

White says the team will need to find confidence and toughness during the remainder of the season.

“That’s our biggest challenge, gaining confidence,” White said. “We’re better whenever we can play loose and have great chemistry and play for each other. But then also you have to prepare their mentality to be tougher. We have to be a tougher basketball team.”

The Panthers will travel to North Carolina next Thursday for a bout with the North Carolina Tar Heels. Tip-off is at 6 p.m. and will air on ACCNX.