Freshman Carey scores 17 as Pitt wins first game of season


By Chris Puzia / Sports Editor

After a major second-half run by Princeton on Friday, Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio used a full-court press with minutes left in the game, in an attempt to turn things around.

She wasted no time using that tactic Monday night, and she had her players press from nearly the start of the game.

This pressure forced 19 turnovers on its opponent, Niagara, en route to a 70-54 Pitt victory at the Petersen Events Center.

“When we picked up our defensive pressure [against Princeton], we were able to create scoring off of our defense,” McConnell-Serio said. “We wanted to come out and set the tone from the beginning of the game.”

But the Panthers (1-1, 0-0 ACC) started the first half Monday the same way they started the second half Friday. 

The team missed its first nine shots of the game, including four on its first possession.

Three of those first four shots were three-pointers and, for the second straight game, Pitt’s first points eventually came from freshman forward Stasha Carey hitting a three-point shot.

McConnell-Serio said Carey was “fun to watch” on Monday.

“We have high expectations for her because we’ve seen her in practice,” she added. “I told her I would have kept her in the game if she was close to a 20-20.”

While Carey didn’t get the 20-point, 20-rebound game, she did finish with a team-high 17 points and 16 rebounds.

“I started out not [not feeling like I would play as well as I did], but as the game went on, I felt better,” Carey said.

Pitt seemed to want to establish an early rhythm from long range, as its first nine points came from three-point territory.

In its season opener, Pitt did not begin to use a full-court press until it was in desperation mode with a few minutes left. But on Monday, McConnell-Serio said she had her team press to start the game out because she didn’t want to “give [Niagara] 25 seconds to run its offense.”.

Midway through the first half, senior point guard Brianna Kiesel drove to the basket, but was blocked from behind by Niagara center Donisha Watson, who had words for Kiesel after the play. She was given a technical foul, and Kiesel made the two resulting free throws.

Pitt seemed to have no answer for Niagara forward Val McQuade at the start of the game. The senior went 4-of-4 from three-point range in the first half and finished the game with 19 points. However, Pitt held her to five points in the second half.

Pitt took a 38-25 lead into halftime on the energy of an 11-1 run over the last 3:42 of the half. Despite the double-digit lead, the Panthers shot only 29 percent in the first half compared to 41 percent by Niagara. They made up for it by taking nearly twice as many first-half shots.

While Pitt also had a halftime lead on Friday, an early Princeton run ended its chances of winning.

Forward Monica Wignot said the team wanted to “try to forget Friday’s game happened.”

Niagara (0-2, 0-0 MAAC) did not seriously threaten Pitt for most of the second half, and the Panthers maintained a double-digit lead and built it to a game-high 26.

Pitt appeared to establish a much better offensive rhythm than its season opener just three days before. Late in the half, senior center Cora McManus received the ball deep in the post, and she passed it smoothly to a cutting Yacine Diop, who finished with an easy layup.

Kiesel finished with five points and three assists. Wignot finished with 12 points and eight rebounds.

Neither team shot particularly well for the game, as Pitt completed just 32 percent of its shots and Niagara shot 35 percent in the game. The Panthers really made their mark on the free throw line, taking 11 more foul shots than the Purple Eagles and shooting 74 percent from the foul line.

The team next plays Thursday at 7 p.m. against Michigan at the Petersen Events Center.

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