Women’s basketball: Panthers fall to Mountaineers, drop fourth consecutive Big East game

By Torie Wytiaz

Familiarity and preparation were not enough to propel the Panthers to their first Big East… Familiarity and preparation were not enough to propel the Panthers to their first Big East conference victory.

Despite a 63-59 loss at the hands of the Mountaineers just 12 days earlier, the Panthers seemed to fall even further into their slump as they suffered another defeat to West Virginia, 69-54, on Sunday.

This contest continued streaks for both West Virginia and Pitt, but in entirely different directions.

The Mountaineers (17-1, 5-0 Big East) victory added a fifteenth victory to their winning streak, matching the longest such streak in over 20 years.

In contrast, the Panthers (11-6, 0-4) suffered their fourth loss in a row, all of which constitute Big East play.

Pitt head coach Agnus Berenato was “disappointed” in the outcome, especially since the Panthers have already had experience against this Mountaineer team.

“We prepared for the win,” Berenato said. “We thought that we would be prepared for whatever West Virginia would throw at us, and this is not the game we expected.”

While a 15-point loss marks the Panthers’ largest deficit this season, the game remained competitive even in the final minutes.

With 9:31 remaining in the second half, junior guard Jania Sims hit a jump shot that brought the Panthers within two, 45-43.

But the Panthers, plagued by turnovers throughout the game, failed to capitalize on their opportunity to tie the game or take the lead.

After two Pitt turnovers, West Virginia’s Korinne Cambell drained a 3-point shot that put the Mountaineers ahead by five and the Panther’s never recovered.

Berenato remembered the sequence vividly.

“We knew we needed to get the score to stay in the game,” she said. “During the timeout, I told the girls that and we set up a play to make it happen, but West Virginia got the turnover and the basket instead.”

The 23 total turnovers by the Panthers provided a spark for the Mountaineers that resulted in 20 points.

“You cannot win a game by letting the opponent score 20 points off of your turnovers,” Berenato said. “That is just unmanageable.”

As the game came to a close, the 3-point shot became the key weapon for the Mountaineers who shot 70 percent from behind the arc in the second half. Junior Vanessa House contributed four of West Virginia’s eight long-range baskets.

While the Panthers succeeded in distributing the scoring among seven players, only Sims scored in the double-digits with 18 points.

The Mountaineers also distributed the ball, and had five players finish the game with at least ten points. For Mountaineer head coach Mike Carey, that statistic made the difference in the game.

“Having five players with double-digit scoring efforts really helps,” he said. “We tweaked a few things from our last meeting and came out with intensity.”

This women’s basketball version of the Backyard Brawl drew a crowd of more than 3,000, many of whom were Mountaineer fans.

According to Campbell, West Virginia’s leading scorer with 15 points, a win over Pitt is always good.

“Pitt is obviously a huge rival for us,” she said. “While no game is more important than any other on the schedule, Mountaineer fans consider the Pitt game a must-win.”

The Panthers will leave for two road games against South Florida and Providence in the coming week as they look to regain confidence and experience a win.

“I’m tired of losing,” junior Shayla Scott said. “When we get a win, we will start to feel better, but we still need to get that win.”