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Panthers hold on for road victory in Columbus

By Jasper Wilson / Senior Staff Writer

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Columbus, Ohio — Standing just inside half court, slightly outside of the Value City Arena block-O logo at midcourt, Brianna Kiesel took one more dribble before looking up at the basket. The senior point guard then released a perfectly on-line shot: swish.

The buzzer beater pulled the Pitt women’s basketball team within a point of Ohio State in the ACC/Big 10 Challenge matchup on Wednesday night, heading into halftime 37-36.

“I knew I wanted to get the ball above half court to at least try and get going to the basket, and I looked up at the clock. I saw three seconds, I was like, ‘We work on these half court shots I might as well try it.’ I just threw it up there, and it went in. I was like, ‘Hey, it’s paying off somehow,’” Kiesel said.

She can’t remember the last time she hit a buzzer beater or a half-court shot, but she and her teammates practice them often, specifically for instances like the one she found herself in.

“It’s kind of like a good luck thing,” Kiesel said.

Players can’t leave the floor at the end of a practice or shoot around until someone makes one, according to head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio.

The setup for the heave was that Kiesel and the Panthers (5-2) had led for much of the opening period. The lead had been separated by one possession often, and no more than two, so her dynamic and unexpected sequence not only kept the score close, but also gave the visitors a physiological edge going into the break, which they rode to an eventual 78-74 win.  

“It was a huge possession, and it gave us momentum going into the half,” McConnell-Serio said.

The tight nature of the game continued in the second half. By the end of the game, there had been 14 ties and 13 lead changes between the teams.

Every time one team threatened to pull away and build a lead, the opposition responded.  

Pitt wrested control from the home team one final time when senior forward Monica Wignot made a 3-pointer, her second of the game, to make the score 59-57 with just more than 10 minutes remaining, an advantage that wouldn’t disappear. They’d finish with seven threes on 18 tries for 39 percent.

“Offensively, we really focused on ball movement. As a team, we’re pretty good when we move the ball, we get a lot of open shots. I thought that’s what we did,” Wignot said. “It paid off at good points.”

Ohio State would mount a final comeback in the final three minutes. The sparse crowd of 3,777 sensed victory slipping away and became the loudest it had been all night.

The noise was for naught.

With under a minute to go, and the score 74-71 in Pitt’s favor, sophomore guard Chelsea Welch made a layup, despite getting fouled, to extend the lead, but missed her free throw.

Ohio State then promptly did what it had all game — guard Ameryst Alston came right down and sank a 3-pointer, the team’s seventh of the game.

The score back to one possession with 36.6 seconds left, Brianna Kiesel shot from left wing and hit the rim. Part of a scramble for the loose ball, Welch and Wignot regained possession for the Panthers before getting the ball back to Kiesel, who was fouled quickly.

She made both free throws and Ohio State’s offense floundered as time ran out for the Panthers’ second win of the season against a Power 5 conference opponent, as the program continues its attempt at rebuilding under McConnell-Serio in her second year leading it.

“The program’s moving in the right direction,” Kiesel said. “Just this win is definitely showing me in the right direction. That this will be a memorable year for me.”

The team’s next game is this Sunday against Duquesne at the A.J. Palumbo Center, with tipoff scheduled for 2 p.m.

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Panthers hold on for road victory in Columbus