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Demon Deacons demonize Panther by double digits

Stasha+Carey+maneuvers+around+a+Wake+Forest+defender.++Wenhao+Wu+%7C+Staff+Photographer
Stasha Carey maneuvers around a Wake Forest defender.  Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer

Stasha Carey maneuvers around a Wake Forest defender. Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer

Stasha Carey maneuvers around a Wake Forest defender. Wenhao Wu | Staff Photographer

By Logan Hitchcock / Staff Writer

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In a battle of two-win conference teams, the Pitt women’s basketball team couldn’t outpace Wake Forest.

Trying for consecutive wins for the first time since late December, the Panthers (10-13, 2-8 ACC) came up short in their game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-11, 3-7 ACC) Thursday at the Petersen Events Center, falling by a score of 60-49.

After a pair of empty possessions to begin the game, Pitt got on the board first when sophomore Stasha Carey got to the rim for a layup. Wake Forest responded by adding the next three baskets before freshman Cassidy Walsh broke  Pitt’s scoreless drought nearly four minutes later.

Walsh’s free throw was not enough to slow the early Wake Forest momentum, as the Demon Deacons connected on their next three field goals, two of them coming from beyond the 3-point arc. Having stretched their lead to 14-3, it was once again Walsh who stopped the bleeding — connecting on a three of her own — to pull the Panthers within single digits.

The Walsh three was the last field goal Pitt would add in the first quarter, collecting four more points — all of from the charity stripe.

Trailing 20-10 entering the second quarter, things didn’t get any better for a struggling Panther offense. After shooting only 2-12 from the field in the opening quarter, the Panthers missed their first four shots in the second quarter before Brenna Wise got to the hoop for a layup to cut the Wake Forest lead to 12 points.

Needing to get more stops and easy buckets to cut deeper into the Wake Forest lead, Pitt moved out of man defense in favor of a 2-3 zone. The zone kept the Demon Deacons from finding easy baskets at the rim as they had earlier in the game, and the Panthers held them from scoring for the last 4:12 of the second quarter — holding them to 0-7 from the field in that time.

While the Panthers cut the Wake Forest lead to seven points, they still struggled mightily from the floor, shooting just 4-14 from the field in the second quarter.

“Our struggles were on the offensive end,” said head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, “just not being able to find an answer anywhere.”

The Panthers started the third quarter in the zone defense that had given Wake Forest problems earlier. hoping to retain momentum from the end of the third quarter. This time, though, the Demon Deacons had no trouble finding baskets. Pitt opened the second half with Yacine Diop scoring on a jumper, but Wake Forest fired back, connecting on its first five shots of the half, including two from beyond the 3-point arc.

The inability to make a dent in the lead was frustrating, McConnell-Serio said.

“Wake Forest hit timely shots. Every time we cut into the lead, they ended up finding a way to get a basket,” she said.

Down 14, the Panthers once again made a defensive change, this time electing in favor of man-to-man defense. The initial change was successful: Pitt used a pair of defensive stops and made some easy baskets to get within nine points, but couldn’t get it any closer. Much like the first two quarters, poor shooting was Pitt’s undoing. After shooting an abysmal 23 percent in the first half, the Panthers did not fair better in the third quarter, finishing 4-17 from the field.

“Toward the end of the game, they were really focusing on me, so it was hard for me to get shots up,” said junior guard Fred Potvin, who has been the go-to 3-point shooter for the team. “I feel pressure to get shots up, but it was very hard to get open.”

Trailing by 15 points entering the fourth quarter, Pitt had little margin for error on either end of the floor. Wake Forest added a quick two points before Pitt had a momentary offensive spark and once again pulled the game within 12 points.

But they wouldn’t get much closer, as a Wake Forest’s Ariel Stephenson essentially sealed the game with one of her four 3-point baskets of the night. Stephenson, who led the Demon Deacons, finished with a game-high of 16 points.

Stasha Carey led Pitt offensively, as she was the lone Panther in double digits, finishing with 11 points. Brenna Wise and Yacine Diop chipped in nine points each.

Pitt will play again next Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Petersen Events Center when the No. 13 Louisville Cardinals (17-5, 9-0 ACC) visit Pittsburgh.

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Demon Deacons demonize Panther by double digits