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All about the ‘W’: Welch scores 12 points off bench as Pitt handles Miami

By Jeremy Tepper / Staff Writer

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In its last game, the Pitt women’s basketball team dug itself into a deep hole early, quickly trailing Duke 19-8. 

Learning from their mistakes, Chelsea Welch and the Panthers came out aggressive this weekend.

The team used several scoring runs on Sunday, including one from the start of the game, to solidify a win over ACC foe Miami at the Petersen Events Center.

The Panthers delivered the first blow against the Hurricanes, gaining a 10-4 lead in the first three and a half minutes. Though Miami only trailed 37-32 at the half, Pitt used a 12-2 run to open the second half to build up a lead that it would not relinquish.

This time, the Hurricanes could not deliver a counter punch, as Pitt defeated Miami (15-6, 5-3 ACC) by a score of 81-66 to improve to 14-7 and 4-4 in the ACC.

Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio noted that it was a big boost for her team to strike first in both halves.

“To be able to execute the way we did against the man defense, hit shots, it was a great start in both halves,” McConnell-Serio said. “That’s what we were talking about — coming out of the locker room when we had possession of the ball, we were looking to strike first.”

Freshman forward Stasha Carey and Welch — two players who were in recent slumps — led Pitt’s offense along with the usual suspects, Brianna Kiesel and Monica Wignot.

In her previous three games, Welch was scoreless in 35 minutes total. Today, she accumulated 12 points off a of 3-5 shooting, and shot 3-3 from beyond the arc in 26 minutes of play.

“It’s finally good to play hard, and it’s all working out,” the sophomore guard said.

Welch’s offense was key in igniting Pitt’s play, as she provided quality minutes from a reserve role.

“Chelsea [Welch] was tremendous off the bench today,” McConnell-Serio said. “Hitting three threes, she did a great job defensively, staying in plays, handling the basketball when they started picking up their pressure. She was really a spark for us.”

Along with Welch, Carey had also been slumping, scoring eight points and shooting 3-15 in her last two games. She put an end to that slump on Sunday, scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds and blocking five shots.

Carey’s shot blocking and Wignot’s post defense — the graduate student recorded five blocks as well — made it extremely difficult for Miami to score in the paint.

Perimeter defense efforts from guard Aysia Bugg and forward Yacine Diop, both freshmen, were also pivotal in limiting Miami’s offense.

For most of the game, sophomore guard Adrienne Motley — Miami’s leading scorer at 16.6 points per game entering Sunday — struggled to find open looks. Motley finished with 17 points on 7-17 shooting, though many came late when the game was beyond reach. 

“We started with Aysia Bugg on her just because of the size of their other players, just to try to shadow her, chase her hard off screens. We were hedging on ball screens by her post players when she was involved in the on-ball screens,” McConnell-Serio said.

Kiesel echoed those sentiments, though she also added that she and her teammates were effective in denying Motley the ball.

“Just trying to limit her touches, trying to make them as tough as possible, and I think Aysia [Bugg], as well as Yacine [Diop], did a really good job on her,” Kiesel said.

Kiesel, a senior guard and Pitt’s leading scorer, once again played a substantial part in Pitt’s offensive success. Kiesel accumulated 23 points — including shooting 10-10 on free throws — with six rebounds and seven assists. Wignot scored 15.

In total, Pitt shot 24-58 from the field, 9-24 from three and 24-28 from the free throw line against a team that was only giving up 56.1 points, 29th in the country, going into the game. Kiesel said that Pitt’s ability to mix buckets in the paint and from the perimeter led to the team’s offensive success.

“It was inside out. We definitely hit some outside shots in the second half, but we also were able to get into the paint and get some good buckets,” Kiesel said.

McConnell-Serio pointed to other aspects as vital for her team’s offense.

“I think that was a key against this defense — that we were able to get to the free throw line. We didn’t turn it over and were able to knock down free throws,” she said.

Against a team that thrives on causing turnovers, the Panthers coughed the ball up only eight times. And when Miami turned up its defensive pressure, it managed to hold on to the ball and make shots.

Nobody on the team could deny that Sunday’s game was a quality win against a team that’s received votes in the USA Today Coaches Poll three weeks in a row, proving that some voters thought the Hurricanes were good enough to be considered one of the 25 best teams in the country. 

A win against such a team boosts the Panthers’ NCAA tournament resumé. Kiesel, though, isn’t thinking about Pitt’s tournament hopes.

“I don’t know how the committee thinks,” Kiesel said. “Every win is a good win. Every win that we go in and get just makes the season so much more fun.”

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All about the ‘W’: Welch scores 12 points off bench as Pitt handles Miami