Panthers’ comeback falls short in 64-54 loss to North Carolina


Pamela Smith | Visual Editor

Destiny Strother (31) shoots a free throw after being fouled during the Pitt vs. NC State women’s basketball game on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021 at the Petersen Events Center.

By Will McGlynn, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s basketball (11-12, 2-10 ACC) fell to the North Carolina Tarheels (19-4, 9-4 ACC) on the road Thursday night. The Tarheels came out fast and Pitt had no answer until late in the game. But the Panthers ultimately ran out of time to mount a comeback, losing the game 64-54.

The Pitt offense once again struggled to hold onto the ball, committing 22 total turnovers. Pitt’s guards just couldn’t seem to generate open shots and often held the ball late into the shot clock or threw errant passes. Pitt fell out of the matchup early. Despite efforts on defense, it couldn’t convert on offense.

The Panthers lost the rebounding battle tonight as well, despite leading the ACC in total rebounding so far this season. It felt like the Tarheels forced the Panthers to defend the entire first quarter as the Tarheels absolutely dominated the boards. North Carolina out-rebounded Pitt 27-14 in the first half. Pitt didn’t grab an offensive rebound until junior center Rita Ibogkwe scored on a putback two minutes into the second half.

Halfway into the first quarter, the Panthers had only scored two points and immediately suffered a long scoring drought. Senior guard Jayla Everett started to pull Pitt out of the hole. Everett hit a three with 1:55 to go in the quarter and followed that up with an easy layup in transition. The Panthers limped into the second quarter already down 18-7.

Pitt couldn’t seem to catch a break in the first quarter. Everett landed awkwardly after hitting a 3-point shot and was slow to get up. She would continue to play but seemed to move a bit slower in the latter stages of the matchup.

The Panthers played a much better second quarter of basketball but couldn’t quite get themselves back into the game. Pitt ran a full-court press on the in-bounds in hopes of rattling North Carolina but saw little success. The Tarheel offense definitely slowed but the Panthers couldn’t score enough points to get themselves back into it. Pitt went into halftime down 34-18.

Pitt continued to struggle in the second half, looking visibly frustrated as the turnovers kept on coming. The Panthers started to improve on the glass, as Ibogkwe started to play a bigger role in the paint. The Tarheels shot well in the third quarter and led 51-34 going into the fourth quarter.

Pitt continued to battle hard late into the matchup, pulling the game back within single-digits after junior guard Dayshanette Harris hit a jump shot with 6:05 left in the game to make the score 51-42.

Junior guard Amber Brown scored a layup with 5:14 left to close the gap to 51-44. North Carolina halted the Pitt momentum when North Carolina first-year Destiny Adams scored the Tarheels’ first points of the quarter on a 3-pointer, widening the gap back to double-digits.

That appeared to be the dagger for Pitt, as the two teams traded baskets to end the game. Pitt couldn’t quite reel the Tarheels back in and ran out of time to complete their comeback.

Pitt couldn’t find any kind of rhythm going in this game. The Panthers attempted just four free throws in the game. Ibogkwe — who has struggled from the line all season — attempted all four.

Despite her early injury, Everett led the team in scoring with 18 points. Everett scored all 18 of her points in the first three quarters, which accounted for over half of Pitt’s scoring.

Despite the loss, Pitt shot relatively well from three. Both of the Panthers’ big perimeter shooting threats, Everett and junior guard Destiny Strother, hit 3-pointers, helping Pitt shoot 39% from beyond the arch.

Pitt looks to get back on track with a matchup against the Syracuse Orange (10-12, 3-9 ACC) at the Petersen Events Center on Saturday. The game will air on ACC Network at 2 p.m.