Yellow Jackets’ size advantage proves costly for Pitt


By Dan Sostek / Staff Writer

The Pitt women’s basketball team’s season took a dramatic turn on Dec. 16, 2013. 

The Panthers were 7-4 at that point and were coming off a 63-49 victory over Old Dominion the night before. Then it was announced that redshirt freshman center Marvadene “Bubbles” Anderson tore her ACL and would miss the remainder of the season.

Anderson was having a solid statistical season. The Jamaican-born center out of Rutgers Prep in New Jersey was averaging a respectable 7.8 points and 4 rebounds per game in her first season of Division I basketball. But it wasn’t those statistics that the Panthers would miss most — it was her height. When 6-foot-11 Anderson, the tallest woman in Division I women’s basketball, went down, the Panthers lost their biggest presence in the post.

That lack of height was on full display Monday night. The Panthers — whose tallest player without Anderson, reserve player Chyna Golden, stands at just 6-foot-2 — lost to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 77-66 at the Petersen Events Center.

Pitt once again trotted out a lineup of four guards and one forward, starting with Loliya Briggs, Brianna Kiesel, Marquel Davis, Ashlee Anderson and Asia Logan, who is tallest of the bunch at six feet. Compare that to the three of Georgia Tech’s five starters who are taller than six feet, and it’s a little easier to fathom the fact that the Panthers surrendered 42 points in the paint.

Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio understands that her team is lacking in the height department. 

“Once we lost Bubbles, we just became so small inside,” McConell-Serio said. “We realize that. But that’s why we need to be more efficient offensively.”

The Panthers were anything but efficient on offense Monday, shooting 22-for-68 from the field — a 32 percent shooting percentage — while making only five of 20 3-point attempts.

Davis, a senior guard who scored a team-high 20 points, didn’t want to use the Panthers’ small lineup as an excuse.

“I think we’ve adjusted [to the loss of Anderson],” said Davis, who also had seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals. “Having a paint presence makes players kind of sit inside and opens things up for the guards. But we’ve had games without Bubbles where the guards have been open to shoot. We just have to be more consistent.”

McConnell-Serio was impressed by the Yellow Jackets offensively, particularly with their ability to drive to the basket.

“When they go inside, they do a lot of speed cuts,” she said, talking about the Yellow Jackets’ offense. “We didn’t defend that well. We were just late.”

The weapons McConnell-Serio was referring to were Georgia Tech’s senior guard Tyaunna Marshall, freshman forward Kaela Davis and sophomore guard Aaliyah Whiteside. The three of them scored 23, 16 and 18 points, respectively, with a good majority of those coming from either the aforementioned speed cuts or free throws resulting from fouls on drives.

Despite the size differential and the Yellow Jackets’ 46-39 rebounding advantage, the Panthers did manage to tally more offensive boards (a margin of 13 to 10). Part of that is because Pitt simply missed more often than Georgia Tech did, but some of it might also be attributed to the Panthers’ effort, something that McConnell-Serio lauded after the game.

“Our players continued to fight,” said McConnell-Serio. “They continued to attack.”