A stifling Pitt defense never gave Delaware State a chance.
After a dominating performance from freshman Kalista Walters against St. Francis, fellow freshmen Kauai Bradley and Brenna Wise joined Walters in leading Pitt women’s basketball to a dominating 77-43 win over the Delaware State Hornets Friday night at the Petersen Events Center.
With hopes of starting 3-0 for the first time since the 2009-10 season, Pitt got the offense going early, feeding the ball in the paint to freshman forward Brenna Wise, who made two separate trips to the charity stripe in the first minute, making three of four free throws.
Wise scored the first five Panther points before fellow freshman Walters got on the board, breaking a 5-5 tie to give Pitt the a 7-5 lead – one that they would never relinquish.
After a few successful possessions early in the first quarter, the Panthers’ offense stalled for much of the remaining half, combining to shoot 34 percent from the field, including an abysmal 1-11 from beyond the three-point arc.
“In the first half, we struggled in a couple of areas,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “Offensively we struggled in transition and missed opportunities.
Despite the lack of half-court offense, the Panthers kept a lead thanks to their propensity for forcing turnovers and a persistent effort on the offensive glass, led by Wise and Walters.
The freshmen duo combined for ten offensive rebounds on the night.
“It’s great that they have the confidence,” McConnell-Serio said. “We’re excited about the impact their making this early in their career.”
The defense kept the Panthers in front, but still let the Hornets hang around in the first half, unable to build a significant lead until freshman guard Cassidy Walsh stole a crosscourt pass and dribbled her way to an easy layup.
The Walsh layup sparked an 11-4 run that gave Pitt its first sizable lead and put Delaware State in a ten point deficit at halftime.
When the Panthers returned to the court in the second half, they hit the ground running, once again fueled by the defense. The Panthers full court press forced six turnovers in the first five minutes of the third quarter, helping them build a 14-6 run and giving them an 18 point lead at the first media timeout of the second half, their largest of the game to that point.
Individually, suffocating on-ball defense from freshman forward Kauai Bradley sparked the Panthers, as she used her athleticism to stymie the Hornet guards for much of the game.
“She has really been a spark for us defensively,” said McConnell-Serio. “Her length, her quickness and her speed are things that make her special defensively. She really disrupted things for Delaware State.”
Bradley helped propel the Panthers in the third quarter and finished the game collecting three steals, four rebounds, three blocks to go along with a pair of threes.
After opening a large lead in the third quarter, it was all Panthers in the fourth, where they outscored the Hornets 22-2 and coasted to victory. For the game, the Panthers were led by Walters and Wise who scored 18 and 14 points respectively, combining for more than 40 percent of the team’s offense.
Yacine Diop and Stasha Carey also reached double-figures. They finished with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Panthers will look to keep their undefeated season alive as they travel to the Virgin Islands next week to take on South Dakota State, Old Dominion and No. 8 Maryland in the Paradise Jam.