Women’s Basketball: Panthers overpowered, outmatched by No. 2 Notre Dame

Womens Basketball: Panthers overpowered, outmatched by No. 2 Notre Dame

Notre Dame forward Natalie Achonwa won the opening tip back to teammate Kayla McBride. Five seconds later, Notre Dame led by two.

It didn’t get any better for Pitt. McBride and the second-ranked Fighting Irish broke open a huge first-half lead with extremely efficient offense, shooting 61 percent from the field en route to a 109–66 win Thursday night at the Petersen Events Center.

After knotting the score at six in the early stages of play, Pitt (9-9, 1-3 ACC) surrendered 12 straight points and never stood a realistic chance at climbing back into the game against the Fighting Irish. 

Notre Dame (16-0, 4-0 ACC) shot 40-for-66 from the field, mostly a product of the 46 points they scored in the paint.

“We felt we had to play great to compete with them,” Pitt head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “We are just not there yet.”

Junior guard Brianna Kiesel did all she could for Pitt, scoring 20 points in 28 minutes of play. The bigger issue than the loss, though, may be the health of Kiesel, who left the game with 12 minutes left after banging her knee on the floor. McConnell-Serio had no update on her status after the game. Marquel Davis also reached double figures for the Panthers, scoring 10 points.

Despite scoring a team-high 20 points, Kiesel was visibly frustrated at her total during the game as sophomore guard Jewell Loyd and freshman Lindsey Allen teamed up to limit Kiesel’s effectiveness as much as they possibly could.

“[Kiesel] is a special player,” McConnell-Serio said. “They tried to make her earn everything they got. She is a competitor who will bring it at both ends of the floor. I’m just hoping we have her in our next game because she is a difference maker for us. ”

McBride and Loyd led Notre Dame on the offensive end, too, posting 20 points apiece as five Fighting Irish players reached double figures in scoring.

The Panthers looked lost at times on defense, with the Irish making basket after basket right around the rim courtesy of a combination of screens and high-low sets that really opened it up.

The numbers don’t lie: 61 percent from the field, 75 percent from beyond the arc, 20-for-22 from the free throw line, 25 assists. It was more of the same for the Irish, who have now scored at least 90 points in 10 of the 16 games they have played this season.

“We really were trying to go inside, trying to get off at the start going inside,” Notre Dame head coach Muffet McGraw said. “It was a big mismatch. We wanted to go inside first and allow our forwards to score. We got some things to open up for us on the perimeter after we did that, and it worked well.”

Lloyd said the Irish played a very effective all-around game, but a couple things really stood out to make them as effective on offense.

“We were really patient,” Loyd said. “We stuck to our game plan and really got in a good groove out there with each other.”

McGraw said even though her team beat up on Pitt this time, the Panthers program is clearly trending upwards and will improve in the future.

“They had a great win against Virginia,” McGraw said. “Kiesel is one of the best point guards in the league and she scored 20, even though we were keying on her. I think now they have some upperclassmen and Suzie (McConnell-Serio) is going to do a great job for them.”

“Where we are as a program, we are just trying to close the gap,” McConnell-Serio said. “We are just trying to put the right pieces in place with recruiting. So every year we will try to close the gap.”