Barrage of 3-pointers leads Pitt past Michigan


By Kevin Wheeler / Staff Writer

What a difference a week can make.

Behind a strong defensive showing and senior point guard Brianna Kiesel’s offensive performance, the Pitt women’s basketball team defeated the Michigan Wolverines 85-64 in dominating fashion at the Petersen Events Center, improving its record to 2-1 on the season.

Pitt has looked much more effective on both sides of the basketball since its loss to Princeton on opening day last Friday.

To stray from the norm, head coach Suzie McConell-Serio started three freshmen for the first time this season — Aysia Bugg, Yacine Diop and Stasha Carey — and she may have found a starting lineup that can be more effective.

Pitt was able to share the ball on offense and play stingy defense, which made everything easier for the team down the stretch.

“Offensively, with 25 assists on 30 field goals, that’s something, as a coach, that you’re very proud of, because you’re letting the offense work and your players are making the extra pass,” McConnell-Serio said. “Then, defensively, being able to force 20 turnovers … I’m just very proud of the way we executed on both ends of the floor tonight.”

The Panthers started the game off tough, forcing Michigan to turn the ball over 12 times, which resulted in them winning the points off turnovers margin in the game, 31-12.

Pitt’s scoring was efficient, too.

The Panthers shot more than 50 percent from the field on their way to setting a new school record for 3-point field goals in a game with 13. Their 43 points at halftime, which were good enough for a 15-point lead, equaled their total from the Princeton loss last Friday.

“What we saw tonight was what we expected from our players in being able to score the basketball,” McConnell-Serio said. “We had seen it all preseason. We had seen it in practice. We have multiple players that can score, so Friday was very frustrating, because we know what we’re capable of.”

The new-look Panthers may have found a special one-two combination in freshman forward Carey and Kiesel.

In the first half, Carey had her game rolling.

Following up on her double-double in the Niagara contest, Carey finished the first half with a stat line of 12 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting against Michigan, accompanied by five boards and one assist.

 If Carey’s play through the first two games – in which she averaged 13 points and 13.5 rebounds per game – didn’t already show the Panthers the breadth of her length and physicality on both sides of the ball, then it became clearer after the win over the Wolverines.

Carey finished the game with 14 points on 6-7 shooting and nine rebounds.

After finishing Monday’s game against Niagara without converting a field goal, Kiesel put on an offensive showcase in the second half.

Kiesel came out of the locker room on fire, dropping 16 points on 5-9 shooting.

Three of those five field goals came from beyond the 3-point arc and contributed to Pitt’s 13 total 3-point field goals in the contest. Kiesel ended the game with 27 points to lead all scorers.

“I think Brianna Kiesel set the tone tonight,” McConnell-Serio said. “She made the game easy for everyone else tonight being able to knock down shots and find a rhythm, being a playmaker. She was just impressive tonight, and her teammates fed off of that.”

Kiesel’s offense wasn’t what stuck out to her, though.

“Our defense definitely created our offense,” Kiesel said. “When they weren’t shooting the ball well, we were able to get a rebound, outlet and push it. That was a really pivotal point in the game.”

The win is arguably the biggest of Kiesel’s Pitt career, and, for her, this year is only getting started.

“As a team, I definitely think this is a huge confidence boost for us,” Kiesel said. “I think getting this win going into James Madison is going to get the ball rolling for us.”

Pitt next faces the James Madison Dukes on Sunday in Harrisonburg, Va., at 2 p.m.