Second-half struggles down Pitt in season opener

Second-half struggles down Pitt in season opener

By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

The Pitt women’s basketball team’s play in the first half of its season opener against Princeton Friday seemed to follow the trajectory of an entire season.

The team started out slowly, and it seemed apparent this was the first competitive game the Panthers had played since early March. Two quick fouls, a number of careless turnovers and missed baskets put the team in an early 12-3 hole.

As the half developed, the team looked like it was in mid-season form, taking an 11-3 run and the lead into halftime.

But the beginning of the second half doomed the Panthers, as the Tigers went on a 16-0 run to open the half, going on to win the game 59-43 at the Petersen Events Center.

Head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said the team’s performance was “not indicative of what I’ve seen from these players.”

“They were trying to do too much, weren’t playing within themselves,” she added. “We always talk about how important team chemistry is, and I didn’t see a lot of that on the floor today.”

Having an already-thin team entering the game, Pitt got a scare in the first couple minutes when forwards Yasine Diop and Monica Wignot picked up early fouls.

“I think nerves played into it a little bit. We were definitely excited,” Wignot said. “We could have come out a little better than we wanted to.”

Pitt made its first basket of the 2014 season when freshman forward Stasha Carey hit a 3-point shot.

Early on, Princeton took advantage of a stretch of seven straight missed field goals by Pitt to go on an 8-0 run and take an early 12-3 lead.

The offense seemed to run through Carey as the first half went on. She missed a putback layup, but quickly got a steal as Princeton came down the court to get herself another layup opportunity, which she made.

“It was definitely scary for my first time [playing in a college game],” Carey said.

Pitt trailed for the entire first half until Kiesel hit a 3-point shot with about six seconds left on the clock. With the basket, Pitt took a 20-19 lead into the half despite shooting 2-of-12 from 3-point range.

Kiesel and Carey led the offense, combining for 12 of Pitt’s 20 first-half points. Senior guard Blake Dietrick led the Tigers with nine points at half.

But the momentum of taking a late lead didn’t seem to carry over into the second half as Princeton went on a 16-0 run to open the period.

“Everyone misses, some of us had really good looks, [sophomore guard Fred Potvin] took some threes that she would normally make,” Kiesel said. “We did a good job of getting [offensive rebounds] and finishing.”

Kiesel led Pitt with 14 points and was the team’s only double-digit scorer. Carey led the team with 11 rebounds.

After missing its first 11 shots in the second half, Wignot broke the streak with a basket nearly eight minutes in.

“The looks were there, we were getting shots off. We need to start making them,” Wignot said. “And once that happens, we’ll be a much better position.”

Wignot is playing her first basketball season for the Panthers after playing four years of collegiate volleyball. She finished the game with seven points on 3-of-10 shooting with eight rebounds.

“It’s still really new to me,” Wignot said. “I was starting to get more comfortable and was getting the feel of being a basketball player again.”

McConnell-Serio said while the freshman played well, she still sets a high bar for the team.

”My expectations are always high. I’ll expect more from [the freshmen] than we got, especially scoring-wise,” she said. “[Carey] had six turnovers. I’m sure she looks at that when we watch film and she’ll learn from that. She’s going to be very good.”

McConnell-Serio will continue to call upon the freshmen in future games, as the team lacks the depth to play otherwise.

Pitt next plays at home against Niagara on Monday at 7 p.m.

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