Women’s basketball: Panthers hope for success away from home

By Torie Wytiaz

Thus far, road trips have not been kind to the Pitt women’s basketball team — the Panthers… Thus far, road trips have not been kind to the Pitt women’s basketball team — the Panthers have dropped five of their eight away games, including their two most recent contests.

But the team has an opportunity to finish its current road trip with an even 2-2 record with a win against Big East opponent Seton Hall tonight at 7.

After falling 79-68 to Louisville in their Big East Conference opener, the Panthers (8-7, 0-1 Big East) will travel to New Jersey to take on the Seton Hall Pirates (7-8, 0-2 Big East).

For Pitt senior forward Shayla Scott, playing on the road presents a challenge for the team that is difficult to replicate in pre-game preparations.

“We try to go over game-like situations in practice, but in the game it is much more intense,” Scott said after the loss to Louisville. “On the road in a big game, everyone has the jitters, not just the freshmen.”

As a senior, Scott has led by example in recent games and her performance will be a key to success against Seton Hall.

In her past three games, Scott has averaged 13 points and just under 10 rebounds per game, including two double-double performances.

Even more impressive has been fellow senior forward Chelsea Cole who has earned double-double performances in eight games this season, giving her the lead in the Big East and the No. 7 rank in the NCAA.

Cole also leads the Big East in total rebounding, averaging over 10 boards per game.

Cole’s and Scott’s dominance on the boards should help the Panthers hold off the scoring of junior forward Kandice Green, who leads the Pirates in points as well as rebounds.

Though Green’s offensive performance has been a bright spot, Seton Hall has struggled to produce points. The Pirates currently rank last in the Big East in field-goal percentage and second to last in total scoring offense.

Scott mentioned that pre-game nerves are present in all players, regardless of experience, but the Panthers are in a unique situation.

The 2010-2011 Pitt team is comprised of only seniors and freshmen, creating a unique team dynamic.

Seniors Cole and Scott are joined by classmate guards Taneisha Harrison and Jania Sims in the starting line-up, and freshman forward Ashlee Anderson has taken the fifth starting position in the last eight games.

After medically red-shirting last season with a broken finger, Anderson is averaging over 17 minutes of playing time per game this season.

The Seton Hall Pirates have contributing freshmen as well, including guards Ka-Deidre Simmons and Jazzmvine Johnson who are averaging 9.5 and 6.1 points per game, respectively. Johnson led the team in scoring with 10 points in their most recent loss to Syracuse.

As members of the Big East Conference, Pitt and Seton Hall will face many tough opponents this season and the Panther players, especially the seniors, know what they need to do to prepare for the competition.

After a recent loss to Duquesne, which ended a three-game Panthers winning streak, Sims noted that with the approach of conference play, the team needed to refocus.

“We need to go back to the drawing board and execute effectively,” Sims said. “We know what we need to do to prepare for the Big East.”

With one Big East game behind them, the Panthers hope to learn from the Louisville game and move on to secure a win against Seton Hall.

“We have to learn from our losses and how to bounce back from defeat,” Scott said.

Despite their two-game skid, history is in the Panthers’ favor, as they lead the all-time series with Seton Hall 25-21, including victories in the last three match-ups.