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Pitt tops UNC for program’s first ACC tournament victory

Photo+Courtesy+of+Grant+Halverson
Photo Courtesy of Grant Halverson

Photo Courtesy of Grant Halverson

Photo Courtesy of Grant Halverson

By Dan Sostek / Sports Editor

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Trailing by three, the University of North Carolina Tar Heels had 15.9 seconds to tie the Pitt women’s basketball team to remain alive in the ACC tournament.
They used 15.8 of those seconds, and thanks to a clutch make by Jamie Cherry, the No. 12 seeded Panthers had to outplay the No. 13 Tar Heels for five minutes of overtime to finally secure their first ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament victory in their third year in the conference.
Under head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, Pitt did just that, corralling itself and dominating the overtime period to advance to the next round of the tournament in a thrilling 82-72 victory Wednesday in Greensboro, North Carolina.
To start the game, the Panthers jumped out to a quick 16-11 advantage, thanks to a combined 13 points from sophomores Aysia Bugg and Yacine Diop. Bugg knocked down a couple early threes, while Diop hauled in three rebounds in the first half.
A late three by Cherry cut into Pitt’s lead at the end of the first quarter, but Pitt entered intermission with a one-point advantage at 19-18.
A quick 3-point play by Stasha Carey grew Pitt’s lead in the second half to 22-18, but UNC went on a 13-2 run to take its first lead since early in the first quarter.
Brenna Wise aided in Pitt’s comeback attempt, as she cut the Panthers’ deficit to one by scoring seven-straight points.
Bugg would give Pitt the lead back, completing a 3-point play with just over three minutes left in the half to give the Panthers a 34-33 lead.
She seared after that 3-point play, scoring the next five points for Pitt. Paired with a couple of made free throws by Destinie Gibbs, the Panthers utilized a 13-0 run to take a 41-33 lead into halftime.
Bugg led Pitt at the half with 15 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Wise tallied 12 points and three boards.
Cherry and Hillary Summers provided the majority of offense for UNC in the first half, tallying a combined 22 points.
Both teams struggled to score in the third quarter, but Wise extended Pitt’s lead to double digits after a traditional 3-point play put her team up 46-36.
But an 11-1 run, highlighted by a deep three from Stephanie Watts, tied the game at 47 with just over a minute left in the half. The score remained there heading into the fourth quarter.
The Tar Heels and Panthers traded baskets early on, with Pitt taking the lead on three separate occasions thanks to baskets by Bugg, Carey and Wise.
But a three by Watts gave the Tar Heels a 54-53 advantage with less than seven minutes remaining in the game. Summers followed that with a second-chance layup to widen the UNC lead to three.
As she did so often throughout the game, Bugg came up big again, swishing a step-back three to tie the game at 56.
After surrendering another layup to UNC, Carey gave Pitt the lead back temporarily, draining a three. The Tar Heels retook the lead on a layup, but Pitt’s Fred Potvin answered, converting on a shot from beyond the arc to give the Panthers a 62-60 advantage with four minutes left.
Potvin would respond to another Tar Heel basket that tied the game up, nailing her second-straight basket, as the Panthers regained a three-point lead.
UNC diminished its deficit to one, but with 21 seconds remaining, Watts committed an offensive foul, giving Pitt the ball back. Wise converted two free throws to give Pitt a three-point advantage, leaving the Tar Heels 15.9 seconds to tie the game.
After a miss by Watts, Cherry nailed a deep 3-pointer with .1 seconds remaining to send the contest into overtime.
Carey opened overtime with five quick points via a three and a layup, giving Pitt an early two-possession advantage in the extra period.
Diop would lay in a fast break two to extend Pitt’s lead to 74-67.
Wise provided the dagger when, with Pitt leading by five, she lofted up a layup while the Tar Heels fouled her, and the ball rolled in. She converted her free throw, putting Pitt’s lead at an insurmountable eight with 1:22 left in overtime.
Pitt outscored UNC 15-5 in overtime, as the Tar Heels were unable to provide any suspense.
Wise led Pitt offensively with a career-high 25 points, also bringing in 10 rebounds and blocking two shots. Bugg finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists in the win.
Pitt returns to action early in the day Thursday, as the No. 12 Panthers face the No. 5 seeded Miami Hurricanes tomorrow at 11 a.m.

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Pitt tops UNC for program’s first ACC tournament victory