Pitt stuns highly ranked Tar Heels with 25-point drubbing


By Mark Powell / Staff Writer

One game removed from a narrow loss to a highly ranked Louisville team, the Pitt women’s basketball team was able to play the role of spoiler.

The team defeated the eighth-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels 84-59 in a monumental win for the program. Brianna Kiesel led the way, scoring 22 points while recording nine rebounds and five assists. Monica Wignot and Stasha Carey added 18 and 17 points respectively.

Having already beaten perennial tournament teams Michigan and Ohio State this season, the Panthers looked calm and collected against one of the top teams in the ACC. They claimed their first win against a ranked opponent since 2011.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way [the team] executed the game plan,” head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “It was a great game to be a part of.”

Pitt’s goal was clear from the beginning: to force the Tar Heels to beat them with the outside shot, as UNC has only hit 30 percent of their attempts from behind the arc this year.

Sophomore guard Allisha Gray highlighted the Heels’ four-guard lineup. Gray averages nearly 17 points and eight rebounds per game.

The Panthers got off to a fast start, matching the Tar Heels basket-for-basket. Wignot entered the game as the team’s leading scorer, averaging over 17 per contest. Wignot played the game with a protective mask from an undisclosed injury against Louisville.

The injury had little effect, as she scored nine points in just as many minutes to open the game. Wignot demonstrated her range throughout the first half, hitting multiple 3-pointers from the right corner.

Kiesel entered the game leading the ACC in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio. She set up three of her teammates’ buckets in the first 20 minutes.

Gray did all she could to keep UNC in the game in the first half, scoring 12 points on three of five shooting and grabbing nine rebounds.

Pitt’s defensive strategy paid off, as they took a 10-point lead into the half. The Panthers forced the Tar Heels to jack up 14 3-pointers, of which they only made three. Overall, North Carolina shot 32 percent from the field, compared to Pitt’s 37 percent.

The most relevant stat of the half, however, was the differential on the boards. The Panthers out-rebounded the Heels 29-20, including a 10-5 edge on the offensive glass.

“As a team, we did a great job finding their girls and boxing them out,” Wignot said. “We didn’t let them get second-chance shots.”

Despite the first-half lead, the Panthers couldn’t get too comfortable. They held a second-half lead against seventh-ranked Louisville in their last contest, yet lost the game 57-63.

“I was a little intense at halftime,” McConnell-Serio said. “I didn’t go in passive at all,”

The Panthers pushed the lead to 20 points early in the second half, with key contributions from freshmen Aysia Bugg, Yacine Diop and Carey. Carey became the third Pitt player in the game to score in double figures.

Bugg finished with her best statistics of the season, scoring eight points and adding six rebounds.

“We have all new players except a couple of returning seniors … they’ve been here four years, and I don’t think it’s the four years they wanted to have,” Bugg said. “We’re just trying to build this program up.”

But the Tar Heels would not go quietly, as a four-minute Pitt scoring drought helped UNC trim the lead to 14.

Kiesel came up big late, as she was able to break the UNC press defense several times, as well as provide pressure on inbounds plays after a made basket.

“She just continues to make plays,” McConnell-Serio said of Kiesel.

Pitt took advantage of UNC’s growing frustration late in the game and pushed the ball in transition to extend their lead.

The result improves the Panthers to 11-4 on the season and evens their conference record to 1-1. Their next game will be at Florida State on Jan. 15.