Playing its first contest since coming back from 14 points down to defeat Clemson, the Pitt women’s basketball team did not experience similar success against Florida State dropping a 67-53 contest Sunday.
Pitt fell victim to a 10-0 Florida State run in the early stages of the first quarter and did not lead after that point as 23 turnovers wreaked havoc towards the Panthers plans.
“I felt we played like a young basketball team today on the road,” Pitt coach Lance White said in a phone interview. “I think they forced the action a lot which caused us to turn the ball over too many times. I thought it would be all about rebounds and we outrebounded them by a lot. That was a good thing and I thought as a coach that if we could be even with them on the boards, then I thought we would have a chance to be in the game. The turnovers and not finishing a lot of bunnies and finish a lot of things in the paint hurt us. I thought that was the tale of the game. Our defensive game plan was really good, it forced them to take hard shots and they made some.”
Despite the early disadvantage, Pitt (3-3, 1-2 ACC) did go on a 12-0 run in the third quarter, cutting its deficit to two points, however FSU responded with a 17-3 streak of its own, effectively putting the game out of reach.
Pitt appeared to have trouble with Florida State’s size with its posts hedging, something that certainly could be pointed to as a reason for the high turnover mark.
Dayshanette Harris led Pitt with her 18 points and Gabbie Green added 11 points of her own. Additionally Cynthia Ezeja and Amber Brown chimed in with 11 and 10 rebounds respectively.
. In the team’s first five games, White left his lineup alone but last Sunday’s victory over Clemson was not enough for him to keep things the same.
After posting four points and 11 rebounds in that Clemson win, Ezeja was inserted into the starting five in place of Rita Igbokwe.
“I think Cynthia has really added a big plus for us,” White said. “So far she’s outplayed Rita in just being able to rebound the ball. She’s had two ACC games and being able to get double-figure rebounds and all of those things will help us have some presence and production in there. Rita’s still going to grow and learn. I need both of them, but right now, C’s just played better.”
White made sure to be clear that he views Igbokwe both a “phenomenal kid and a great teammate” and wants Pitt to succeed and accepted the decision. Eventually long term, White wants to play both together which can add to the team’s power game though right now he views this as not being a possibility yet with their versatility.
Ezeja now takes another step in a journey where she redshirted with Pitt last season and missed the season-opening contest against George Mason.
“It was definitely hard sitting out a whole year from basketball,” Ezeja said after the Clemson win. “I learned a lot of stuff on the bench and seeing what we got to work on and I needed to practice and work on, so I’m happy to contribute.”
. When White was told that Pitt recorded six assists on 21 made shots, his disappointment was very clear, even over the phone.
White likened it to make a “hero pass instead of just an easy pass” and it comes down to making things simpler.
“Some of those are decisions we’re still trying to understand,” he said. “Whenever we get those ball screens it is who’s open, how do I get it to them? Some of it is fundamental developments, some of it is court awareness. We’re still learning and growing through that. The turnovers all year long have been our biggest struggle, we turn it over too many times and we don’t put people in a position to score easy shots. That’s where we have to continue to learn and grow.”
. A week ago, Pitt did not lack energy, even when it trailed by double digits. It remained focused on the task at hand and exited the third quarter with some momentum after being aggressive and earning a trip to the foul line.
Pitt had its one third-quarter run but shot 30.4% from the field and 20.8% from three.
Saturday did not provide a good practice and with Pitt not playing again until New Year’s Eve against Boston College, there could easily have been a block with Christmas break coming after this game.
“(It’s) keeping your kids focused on playing one more game, rather than getting to go home,” White said. “We’ve been together a long time and these kids are ready to see some of their family. I thought some of that went into it, but for the most part, all year long these kids have been so resilient to do whatever we can do to play basketball. That for me is a huge testament to these kids and how well they kept our bubble tight. They’ve been awesome teammates for each other and supported each other through a lot of adversity.”
HE SAID IT
“I thought especially in the first half, our shots were in quick shots and then we were in panic mode, then surprised we were open. I thought those early shots were rushed, it was more panic instead of being open and ready to shoot. We’re still trying to learn our team and what our strengths are and you need to figure that stuff out quicker. You hope it happens more during non-conference season rather than ACC play when everybody is so big, fast and strong where those decisions become more magnified. It really is exposed.” – White
Photo credit: Florida State Athletics