Preview | Pitt women’s basketball looks to redeem frustrating season in ACC tournament


Ethan Shulman | Staff Photographer

The Pitt women’s basketball team listens to coach Lance White on the sideline during the game against Syracuse on Thursday.

By Alex Porter, Staff Writer

Pitt women’s basketball’s (10-19, 3-15 ACC) 2023 campaign is underwhelming by all metrics. While the season featured a few highlights — most notably an emotional 60-51 victory against Virginia for their first ACC win of the year in the annual Pink the Pete game — finishing dead last in the conference once again isn’t a sign of forward progress. 

The past few seasons similarly disappointed loyal fans, as Lance White is yet to surpass the 11 wins the team earned in his inaugural season as head coach.

With the unpredictability of college sports, there is still hope for the Panthers to salvage the season and quite possibly White’s job. The Panthers will soon travel to Greensboro, North Carolina, for the annual ACC tournament, playing Wednesday against No. 10 Clemson. 

Last season, No. 1 NC State dominated the tournament, winning the championship by 23 points against No. 7 Miami.

Pitt qualified as the No. 15 seed last season, losing a close contest against No. 10 Duke. Junior forward Liatu King led the Panthers in that game with 13 points and nine rebounds, and they’ll need similar production from her again this postseason. 

Clemson and Pitt met once already this season, where the Tigers defeated the Panthers 72-57. Pitt controlled the game before a 22-6 Clemson run in the third quarter. Clemson senior guard Amari Robinson took over the contest with a game-leading 18 points.

Robinson is a prolific scorer, ranking No. 8 in the ACC in points, making the Panther’s ability to effectively shut her down crucial to Wednesday’s contest.

Clemson is on a hot streak, entering the ACC tournament on a two-game win streak, besting both Virginia and a ranked Florida State team. Robinson led both games in scoring with 18 and 20 points, respectively. With these victories, Clemson is regaining some momentum after dropping six of seven games prior to their streak.

Pitt, on the other hand, is trending in the opposite direction, riding a three-game losing streak going into the tournament. Prior to the losing streak, Pitt won three of four ACC matchups — it must return to that form in order to have a chance at advancing.

Amid this losing streak, the Panthers played their worst game of the year in a 85-55 loss against Syracuse on senior night last week. White had harsh words regarding his team’s performance following the game. 

“This was just an awful performance by our team and again I was really disappointed in just our effort in every part of the game,” White said. “[We] didn’t play as hard as you have to play in the ACC to compete … This was one of the worst games I’ve seen us play.”

Despite losing the next game against the reigning ACC champion NC State 68-63, the Panthers seemed to respond to their coach’s comments, holding what most would consider a superior opponent under their average points scored.

For Pitt to find some success in March, it must keep up the same elite effort along with a few other key factors.

The Panthers need points from their bench. In his tenure at Pitt, White has never hesitated to use his bench players, sometimes to a fault. For the Panthers to have a chance at winning, they need production from their bench players. 

In all three of their ACC wins, at least two Panthers who started on the bench scored in double digits. Specifically, senior guards Dayshanette Harris and Channise Lewis achieved double digits in all of Pitt’s conference wins. So, if the Panthers continue on in the tournament, look for this trend to continue.

One area where the Panthers stand out is their success behind the arc. Three-point percentage is the only statistic where the Panthers rank in the top half of the ACC, coming in sixth in the league at 32.4%. First-year guard Avery Strickland is at the forefront of Pitt’s three-point success. She currently leads Pitt in made-threes with 38.

Seven three-pointers made is a realistic expectation for Pitt. During each of its conference play wins, the Panthers made at least seven three-pointers. In fact, they only lost one game this season when making that many threes.

Lastly, the Pitt needs to figure out how to win away from home. The Panthers have a 7-9 record at home, with two of their three conference wins coming in Pittsburgh. On the other hand, they possess a 2-8 record on the road and a 1-3 record at neutral sites. Since the tournament is at a neutral site, they’re statistically at a severe disadvantage.

If Pitt advances Wednesday, they’ll be back in action Thursday against No. 7 North Carolina — but considering the Panthers lack of success this season, they shouldn’t get too ahead of themselves.