On the surface, Pitt’s win over Clemson on Wednesday was a great team effort that saw the Panthers notch a crucial ACC win Looking deeper, the win serves as something more than that due to it being the team’s first win since Dec. 13 when they beat, you guessed it, Clemson.
“This is just a start over, to be honest,” said Destiny Strother. “We are just going to keep getting better and better.”
Pitt hasn’t had many opportunities to get better. The COVID-19 pandemic is a new challenge that all collegiate programs have had to deal with, but the Panthers are a team that has been hit harder than most. Tuesday’s contest served as the team’s second game in nearly 40 days.
“Our team isn’t in shape to play 40 minutes,” head coach Lance White said. “We’re gonna have to sub, and I think you can see that the depth of our rotation is getting so much better. I trust those kids to make plays, and they are a really unselfish group.”
White’s statement rang true on Tuesday, as 10 Pitt players found themselves with points at the end of the game. Not even a cold start from shooting guard Jayla Everett and defensive attention paid to point guard Dayshanette Harris hindered Pitt from leading for the majority of the first half. That, in large part, was due to the early efforts of Liatu King.
“The middle was open every time,” said King. “They were trapping [Harris] and, so, I saw that as an opportunity to either flash middle or stay short corner.”
After letting a 31-10 lead slip away against Miami last Thursday, Pitt managed to thwart any comeback attempts from the Tigers on Tuesday. When the Panthers came up empty on the offensive end, they made sure Clemson met the same fate.
“We knew they would try to come get us,” said White. “We had to be composed to break down their pressure and find the open player. From the start to finish, I thought [Harris] handled that.”
Harris shot just 3 of 10 from the floor, but found her teammates in a six-assist performance. Though she had five turnovers, she was able to protect the ball when it mattered and prevent momentum swinging plays.
White is confident that his team will continue to find its footing and hit its stride. He said the win will do wonders for their season.
“The hardest thing when you take over a program is learning how to win,” said White. “[Tuesday] was a huge step in our maturity and our composure. I thought from start to finish they really executed the game plan.”
King shared a similar excitement as her coach in regards to the win and the team moving forward.
“It feels good to be here, it feels good to win,” said King. “We’re just gonna keep our heads up and keep doing what we’re doing.”
Another road test stands in the team’s way on Thursday when the Syracuse Orange (7-3, 4-3 ACC) play host to the Panthers.