Panthers start weekend road trip at North Carolina State

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Panthers start weekend road trip at North Carolina State

By Jeremy Tepper / Staff Writer

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Unsurprisingly, Pitt’s women’s basketball team has had more success in the friendly confines of its home court than when facing foes on the road.

While Pitt only lost one more game at home than its three defeats on the road , the away games saw the Panthers playing their worst this season. Part of that has been a drop in shooting once the team leaves the Petersen Events Center.

To prove their competitiveness among upper-tier teams and compete in postseason play, the Panthers must show resolve away from home. They’ll travel to face North Carolina State on Thursday and No. 8 Louisville Sunday.

“We have to embrace playing in those environments and playing in front of opposing fans. So much of it is mental,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “Great teams win on the road and that’s what we need to do.”

In their last game away, the Panthers lost to No. 15 Duke, 62-45. In that game, Pitt shot 18-62 from the field and 7-29 from 3-point range.

“Offensively, shooting the ball well has been the biggest detriment for our team [on the road],” McConnell-Serio said.

Senior guard Brianna Kiesel said acclimating to the rims on the baskets is one of the main adjustments that a player needs to make when playing on the road, which could correlate with the Panthers’ shooting struggles. Even if the rims aren’t necessarily different, the constant shooting practice at home can typically get a player more accustomed to shooting on home baskets than away ones.

“It’s just getting adjusted to the rims, trying to get adjusted to different courts,” Kiesel said. “Some rims are harder, some rims are softer.” 

The hostile and opposing atmosphere also slightly impacts the team’s performance, according to sophomore guard Chelsea Welch.

“I wouldn’t say the atmosphere is a big part, but it does have some type of effect,” she said.

Perhaps most importantly, Pitt has just happened to play tougher teams on the road. Of those three losses, one was against Duke, another was against No. 9 Florida State and the other was against James Madison, who received top-25 votes in the most recent AP and USA Today Coaches Poll rankings.

While North Carolina State isn’t quite the same caliber of those teams, McConnell-Serio, Kiesel and Welch said the Wolfpack is better than their 12-9 and 3-5 ACC record indicates. The second-year head coach pointed out that North Carolina State team stays close in many games until the end. Though it lost, North Carolina State fell by seven points to No. 8 Louisville and by only four to No. 13 North Carolina.

“[North Carolina State has] a lot of talent, they do a lot of great things defensively, their guards are very quick,” McConnell-Serio said.

North Carolina’s biggest strength may come in its varied, balanced scoring. Six players on the Wolfpack’s roster have scored seven or more points per game, with half of the group scoring in double digits. Those three include guards sophomore Dominique Wilson (14.4), sophomore Miah Spencer (13.0) and senior Len’Nique Brown-Hoskin (10.1).

“They all can shoot and they all can drive. That’s something that we have to focus on, which is defending multiple aspects,” Welch said.

McConnell-Serio said the Panthers will have to respect the shooting ability of several scorers on their team.

“All five starters — any of them can have a great night. I don’t think you can key on one player to shut down NC State,” McConnell-Serio said.

Pitt has also tried to spread its scoring around, making use of these strong shooters.

“It really does help a lot. A lot of teams focus on keying on that one good players, that one shooter, that one driver,” Welch said. “The fact that we have three, four people scoring in double digits, it makes it harder.”

The similarities continue as the Wolfpack also starts a power forward who shoots threes: their sophomore Jennifer Mathurin, who is similar to Pitt’s Monica Wignot.

“They have really balanced scoring, and they have a stretch four just like us. It’s almost like we’re the epitome of the same teams,” Kiesel said.

Though they’re similar, Kiesel knows for certain what it takes for her and her teammates to win on the road.

“We know what we’re good at. We know what’s going to be successful. And we just got to go in and execute our game plan,” she said.  

It’s just a matter of being able to translate those strengths on the road to come out successful.

“We’re just trying to keep our energy, we’re trying to stay positive and take the confidence that we have at home on the road,” McConnell-Serio said.

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