Pitt head coach Lance White got his first ACC victory as Panthers women’s basketball coach on Thursday night, as Pitt beat North Carolina, 90-78 at Petersen Events Center to improve to 1-11 in ACC play and 10-16 overall.
It’s been a trying first year for White, who has not only dealt with being a first-year head coach in one of the toughest conferences in women’s basketball, but also the loss of a pair of important returning players in Aysia Bugg (blood clots) and Alayna Gribble (concussion).
What’s left of the Panthers slogged through the first 11 games of ACC play and had few games that were even competitive, which made Thursday’s walloping of North Carolina, which was 6-5 in league play entering the game, even more surprising.
“I am extremely excited and proud of the way that our team played today,” White said after the game. “Again, you can talk so much about the character of these young women that come to war and battle every day, and they have done it so far this year without a lot of outcome.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_WBB) February 15, 2019
“We kept talking that it was coming—if we keep the course and keep fighting, then great things are going to happen, and tonight a great thing happened. I am really proud of them. They never doubted—we had been talking about confidence, confidence in shooting it, and confidence in who they are, and to see it come together tonight was really rewarding as a coach. I am really excited for them.”
Pitt was powered by its seniors as forward Danielle Garven led the way wit 27 points on 13-of-18 shooting and added seven rebounds. Guard Cassidy Walsh had 22 points and was 6 of 8 from beyond the 3-point line. Wing Kauai Bradley scored 15 points and led the Panthers with eight rebounds.
Bradley was 3 of 6 from long range and the Panthers as a whole shot 11 of 19 (57.9 percent) from three.
“I think it comes from the confidence of Coach,” Bradley said. “He always tells us to shoot that open shot, so just having the confidence in us in shooting and not worrying about the last play and missing.”
While the Panthers were shooting lights out, they held North Carolina to 37 percent shooting and 22.6 percent from 3-point range.
“I thought one of the biggest differences in the game was our ability to change defenses,” White said. “I thought it kept them off balance. I thought from the very beginning they thought we were going to be in a zone defense, and we kept changing it on them so they could not get into a defensive rhythm. That was a big key in the game, that they never got into their rhythm. Our defense was shifting a lot and they couldn’t decide if they wanted to attack off ball screens or not.”
The Panthers will have a three-game road trip, as they visit No. 21 Florida State on Sunday, Syracuse on Feb. 21 and Wake Forest on Feb. 28.
They’ll return home for their final regular season game against Louisville on March 3, when Pitt’s outgoing seniors will be honored.