PITTSBURGH — The Pitt women’s basketball team had not played a game in 32 days, yet here it was against Miami Thursday night, with a shot to win the game late, which all three looks were there and did not fall.
Pitt got the ball in Gabbie Green, Jayla Everett and Liatu King’s hands but all three shots clanged off the rim and no whistles were blown.
Pitt’s last gasp was not enough in a 72-68 defeat against Miami at the Petersen Events Center.
“I thought we needed movement and they would be in their zone,” Pitt coach Lance White said. “I thought we got great movement and kids we wanted to shoot the ball. If a three was there we were going to go try to win it and I thought Gabbie and Jay’s those are the two we would want first and Tu’s shot there were a chance for a foul. I thought they got it in the right hands and we just missed the shots.”
White had said Pitt’s practices leading up to the game were mostly down-and-backs, but there was a clear excitement to get back on the court after it was taken away an hour-and-a-half before the team’s Dec. 31 game against Boston College.
White attributed the first quarter to the excitement of being on the court, happiness that opened up a 23-point advantage in the opening 10 minutes, but that quickly subsided as Miami went to a zone and Pitt struggled by rushing plays which strung into missed shots and turnovers.
Pitt was trying to keep its players fresh by putting players on the court for a few minutes and then giving them a break, which White stated led to some weird lineups in at times but the team still had energy and fight at the end of the game, though it fell short.
Recalling the game that had just been played, sophomore center Rita Igbokwe was laughing as it was not necessarily about being tired but more about the team’s legs and putting them through the demands of an ACC game.
“It was a whole lot of fatigue,” she said. “We just knew we were tired so I guess we didn’t try as hard. It was a matter of our first game back from quarantine so trying to get our legs back.”
As the team moves forward White hopes the team becomes more focused in all aspects.
“We have to learn how to win,” said White. “We are so much closer from Florida State to this one but they have to understand that every possession has to matter. I just need more from them. We lose certain players at different times and that adds up to not being disciplined enough to win ACC games.”
As was announced just prior to tipoff, Pitt was short two players due to COVID-19 protocols. With Ismini Prapa out for the season and Marcella Lamark still in Brazil, that meant Pitt had 10 players dress.
A university spokesperson confirmed to PSN that senior center Cara Judkins (2.3 ppg/2.7 rebs) has decided to opt out for the remainder of the season.
Judkins joined Gabbie Green as Pitt’s two captains, both unanimously receiving such honors by their teammates.
From a numbers standpoint, the only other two players on the team’s roster who did not make the box score were freshman guard Sandrine Clesca and redshirt freshman forward Cynthia Ezeja.
White did acknowledge Ezeja missing from the court given that she had taken Igbokwe’s spot in the starting up before the month-plus long stoppage. He stated Ezeja will be back for Pitt’s next game.
Also on an injury front, Destiny Strother received stitches on her lip Thursday, but is expected to be ready to play in Pitt’s next game as well.
White stated that Pitt’s weekend contest at Boston College has been cancelled due to COVID-19 protocols. Currently Pitt is scheduled to face Clemson Tuesday in an effort to makeup the Jan. 10 contest.
This news has not been confirmed by the ACC at the time of this article.
‘PITT IS GOING TO FIGHT’
Despite the layoff, Pitt was able to hang against a Miami opponent which switched defenses and clearly bothered them with a second shot approach.
Miami has faced teams coming off layoffs this season on multiple occasions and it would get good looks on the first shots, but with Pitt’s tired legs it was about getting into position to get rebounds and scores.
The Hurricanes did just that with 20 offensive boards and additional scoring opportunities.
“We had a chance to win it and just couldn’t make enough plays down the stretch to do it,” White said. “We hadn’t done anything more than down-back-downs in 32 days so to see our kids go out there and play really hard, they handled it well and gave us a chance to be in the game.”
Indeed Pitt could have been down after it took less than an entire quarter for a 23-point advantage to fall by the wayside, but it hung around in the third and fourth quarters.
Pitt had three serious looks to win the contest, all good looks which was a testament to its desire to win, something which was not affected by the layoff, something which pleased Igbokwe.
“That has to be our Pitt stamp,” she said. “Pitt is going to fight. We have to fight constantly and we have to keep it rolling. That has to be our staple.”