Pitt pulls away late to top Holy Cross, 56-50


Kalista Walters goes for the jump shot. Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer

By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

Pitt’s women’s basketball team returned home from Michigan to a better end result — but it couldn’t leave its familiar turnover issues behind.

After dropping three of their last four games away from home, the Panthers (5-3) snapped a two-game losing streak Sunday when they defeated the Holy Cross Crusaders (2-6) 56-50 in their return to the Petersen Events Center.

Following some sloppy play from both teams, Pitt scored for the first time when freshman Kalista Walters made a layup off a steal by sophomore guard Aysia Bugg. Walters added another bucket a few possessions later. Bugg, Walters and freshman Brenna Wise carried the team early in the first quarter, helping the Panthers close on a 10-2 run, taking a seven-point lead into the second quarter.

Despite their youth, Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio has relied heavily on freshmen Walters and Wise so far this season.

“They aren’t far removed from their [high school] senior seasons where they were the go-to players on their team. This is familiar territory for them,” McConnell-Serio said of the duo.

McConnell-Serio added that, even though Pitt won the game, her team didn’t take care of the ball as well as she would have liked.

“It was an offensive struggle for us in a lot of ways,” McConnell-Serio said. “We had 20 turnovers and missed opportunities — a lot of missed layups and open jumpers.”

Those miscues bled through in the score line in the second quarter.

An opening possession turnover by Wise led to a 3-point jumper from Holy Cross senior Lisa Mifsud that sparked a 13-0 run for the Crusaders. Down 21-15, Pitt finally snapped the scoring drought with a pair of free throws by redshirt junior Destinie Gibbs.

The Panthers would add another Walters layup and a jumper from freshman Kauai Bradley to tie the score at 21 before Holy Cross’ Infiniti Thomas-Waheed unknotted the scoring with a 3-pointer on the next possession. Despite a Yacine Diop layup just before the buzzer, the Panthers went into the second half trailing 24-23. They had shot only 33 percent from the field in the first half, including 0-5 from three while committing 10 turnovers.

The offensive struggles continued in the second half. When the teams returned to the court, Holy Cross wasted no time extending its lead, adding an early 3-pointer from Misfud and a jumper from Katie Doherty to bring the score to 29-23.

The teams spent the next six minutes trading baskets until McConnell-Serio took a timeout to try to build a definitive advantage. Despite holding the Crusaders to just 29 percent from the field in the third quarter, the Panthers’ own inefficient shooting efforts kept them from climbing back in the game.

Pitt had shot just 39 percent from the field in the third quarter and committed six turnovers, finishing the quarter in a six-point deficit.

In the fourth quarter, though, the Panthers came out aggressive, pushing the tempo on offense and once again using the full-court press to help on defense. After a Bugg 3-pointer, a pair of layups and two free throws from Wise, the Panthers tied the score at 43 with seven minutes remaining.

The Crusaders broke the tie with four straight points, but Pitt again charged back with a Wise 3-pointer and a Walters layup to give them the lead for good.

McConnell-Serio said the defense enabled the win for the Panthers on Sunday, holding Holy Cross to only 28 percent shooting for the entire game.

“I’m very proud of the effort in the second half defensively, being able to dig deep and find a way,” McConnell-Serio said. “I think that’s the big thing, that we found a way to win the game.” Despite the offensive struggles, the Panthers had three starters finish in double-digit scoring, led by Wise who finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.

The Panthers will look to improve on their offensive performance when they play next against Mount St. Mary’s 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Petersen Events Center.

“We need to get in the gym a little extra, getting shots up,” McConnell-Serio said. “We need to make sure we’re taking time shooting the basketball.”

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