PITTSBURGH — Pitt women’s basketball team is off to an 0-3 start in conference play. But each of their three losses only came by single digits.
Coming into the season, everyone around the program knew that it would be a rebuilding year. Seven of the 12 players on the Panthers’ roster are in their first or second season of college basketball.
Recently, it seems as if each game, a new young gun blossoms, and shows off their set of talents that they will eventually display in full at some point over their four-year career.
Forward Rita Igbokwe had played 10 minutes or less in five games this season and hasn’t started a single contest in Pitt’s first 13 games.
In the Pitt’s most recent loss to Boston College on Sunday, Igbokwe found herself thrown into the action earlier than usual. As Pitt fell behind 5-2 in the first few minutes, coach Lance White put in the 6-foot-4 forward from Jonesboro, Ga., not only for a needed spark but to give his team the low-post presence that would eventually keep the game as close as it was.
“With every game that passes, I feel way way way more comfortable going to seal (for post-touches),” Igbokwe said Sunday. “I feel so much (more) comfortable with my teammates. It’s crazy.”
Igbokwe finished on her first four field-goal attempts and was challenging just about every shot that came from around the paint. She finished the game with 12 points, which was her career-high. She shot 6-of-10 from the field, blocked two shots, and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes.
“To see Rita’s growth on both ends of the floor (has been rewarding),” White said. “(Especially) at this level where it’s demanded that she has to do it over and over again. She’s going to be a beast. Once she puts it all together, it’s going to be really hard to stop her.”
On the season, Igbokwe is averaging 16 minutes per game, 4.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. White knows just how badly all of his young players want to continue to excel and get better each day. He especially sees that drive in Igbokwe.
“She wants it,” White said. “She wants it so bad that she’s probably too hard on herself, and she’s got to know that this is part of the process.”
Igbokwe has had some other bright spots early on in her first season. She played 29 minutes against Ohio back on Nov. 29 and recorded 18 rebounds and six blocks. All were career highs.
In Pitt’s loss to Boston College, they failed to make a field goal in the final 3:22 of the game and eventually watched their lead dwindle each possession that they came up short.
White knows that finding ways to make those shots, has a good bit of mental toughness behind it.
“Everybody on our team, when the pressure is on, (they) kind of shy away from (taking big shots),” White said. “But (they have to be like), ‘No, that’s what you do.”
White alluded to his team having the best half of their season in the first half against the Eagles, and he wants his team to use those decisive moments and build off of them for the future.
“We just have to have the composure to finish (games),” White said. “And we just have to learn to be solid.”