Panthers roar back to topple Virginia in OT

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Panthers roar back to topple Virginia in OT

By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

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.Two minutes and fifty-one seconds. That’s how long Pitt women’s basketball led throughout the entirety of the team’s 68-63 contest against the Virginia Cavaliers Thursday evening at the Petersen Events Center. Fortunately for the team, it was the final 2:51 of overtime.

After earning their first lead on a Brianna Kiesel layup halfway through the extra period, the Panthers never looked back.

Sparked by the combined efforts of senior point guard Kiesel and freshman forward Stasha Carey, the Panthers (18-8, 8-5 ACC) erased their largest deficit of the season, including an 11-point hole in the final seven minutes of the second half to force overtime, where they outscored the Cavaliers to earn a thrilling 68-63 victory.

Looking to add to their current three-game home winning streak, the Panthers were slow out of the gate, missing on a pair of 3-pointers and committing three turnovers before finally getting their first basket, a layup, from freshman Aysia Bugg.

The Panthers’ offensive woes continued for much of the first half. They only managed to shoot 33 percent from the field, including 1 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc.

The poor shooting wasn’t the only thing plaguing the Panthers’ offense. Pitt committed 10 turnovers in the first half, leading to easy baskets that resulted in 12 points for the Cavaliers.

Despite the offensive inefficiencies, the Panthers limited the deficit in the game for much of the first half, largely because of Carey’s efforts on both ends of the floor. 

Carey could not do it all, though, as the Panthers fell prey to their largest deficit of the half when the Cavaliers’ Breyana Mason hit a two-point basket that sparked a 9-2 Virginia run in the final minutes of the first half, ballooning their lead to 10 points.

 In the second half, the Panthers alleviated any offensive problems that ailed them earlier in the game, connecting on their first three shots of the half, including a Carey layup sandwiched between two Kiesel field goals.  

“We came out and we knew we had to clean it up and just play our game,” said Carey.

The Panthers did just that, limiting their turnovers and ramping up the defensive pressure in the second half, creating 11 second-half Virginia turnovers. 

“We play with a lot of confidence, said Kiesel. “As long as there is time on the clock, there is still a chance to win.” 

Kiesel was a sparkplug offensively for Pitt in the second half, connecting on 5 of 11 shots from the field and tallying 11 of her game-leading 23 points. 

Despite the improved play on both ends of the court, the Panthers couldn’t make a sizeable dent in the Virginia lead as the half went on, trailing by 11 points with seven minutes remaining. 

Momentum began to shift for the Panthers when freshman forward Yacine Diop leapt high in the air to steal a Virginia inbounds pass, which was quickly followed by a Carey 3-pointer that cut the lead to six with five minutes remaining.

Pitt struggled to overcome the Cavaliers’ advantage, and Virginia led by four with 57 seconds remaining in regulation.

But after a Carey layup diminished Virginia’s lead to three, a Kiesel layup moved Pitt within one point with 15 seconds remaining. 

After the layup, Carey, who was defending the inbounds after the make, jumped with her arms stretched up and snatched the ball clean from a Virginia player. The Cavs’ Breyana Mason quickly fouled Carey and sent her to the free throw line. 

With the game on the line, Carey needed to make at least one free throw to send the game to overtime. After sinking the first, Carey missed the second, but the Panthers kept the Cavaliers from putting up a shot on the other end of the court, sending the game into overtime. 

In overtime, trading baskets quickly grew old for the Panthers, who grabbed the lead for good on Kiesel’s layup two minutes into the extra period. 

“This was such a great win,” said coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, “I’m so proud of how our players hung tough and kept their composure.” 

The Panthers will look to build on the win when they travel to Syracuse to take on the No. 25 Orange on Sunday. Tip-off at the Carrier Dome is scheduled for noon.  

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