PITTSBURGH — A strong defensive effort coupled with strong performances from Gabbie Green and Jayla Everett weren’t enough to give Pitt a victory on Senior Day, as the Panthers fell 71-67 to the Syracuse Orange on Sunday.
The Panthers (4-7, 2-6 ACC) were led by Everett, who had 16, in scoring. Green tallied 13 points and had a very strong first half that attributed to their early lead. As a team, Pitt committed 26 fouls and 19 turnovers. Pitt led the rebounding battle with 42 and scored 23 second chance points.
Syracuse (11-4, 8-4 ACC) got their offensive spark from Kiara Lewis and Kamilla Cardoso, who finished with 22 points each. The Orange shot just under 39% and made 69% of their free throws. Cuse committed 18 turnovers of their own despite walking away with the win.
Pitt struggled to find their footing in the early stages of the game, turning the ball over three times in the first three minutes and coming up empty on the offensive end.
Liatu King pulled down an offensive rebound and put points on the board for the Panthers with a layup.
Ball security prevented either team from getting into any solid rhythm, with each team turning it over numerous times in the opening minutes. By the end of the quarter, there were a total of 15 combined turnovers.
The blue and gold did begin finding some sort of flow on offense, though. A make from King was followed up with a Gabbie Green three ball that connected to put Pitt ahead for the first time, 7-5. Everett got a three of her own to fall and fired up both Pitt’s bench and the small number of Senior Day spectators that were allowed inside the Petersen Events Center.
The aforementioned turnovers and a sturdy Syracuse defense prevented Pitt from really opening up its lead, but the Panthers managed to take a 14-6 advantage into the second quarter.
Pitt’s defense was a key contributor as well, forcing Syracuse into an abysmal 1-15 shooting performance in the opening 10 minutes.
Green kept her foot on the gas pedal and pick-pocketed Tiana Mangakahia before sprinting down the court and laying it in. Rita Igbokwe power her way to a bucket down low, but was quickly matched by Kamilla Cardoso for Syracuse.
Each side began playing a more up-tempo brand of basketball as time went on in the second quarter. Green buried a corner three and then watched Lewis make one of her own for Syracuse.
The Orange began clawing back at this point as well. Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi’s three pointer brought Pitt’s lead down to single digits, 27-20.
Destiny Strother hit back by making a three for the Panthers on their ensuing possession, continuing the three pointer barrage from the two sides. That run of success continued when Emily Engstler made a three to trim Pitt’s lead to eight points just before half, 30-22.
Green and Cardoso led in scoring for the two sides with 10 points each. Pitt shot 33% in the first half and held the Orange to a 22% shooting performance in the first half.
Bad shooting numbers aside, the Orange came out strong in the second half.
Cardoso made two quick shots to bring the lead down to just two possessions. Kiara Lewis drained a three to bring the Orange within one, 30-29.
The Panthers managed to fend off Syracuse by answering on their own end and not allowing another run on defense. Much like the first half, however, Pitt failed to really pull away and build a strong lead.
Strother and Cardoso traded buckets and allowed Pitt to briefly keep its lead. Kiara Lewis then took the load off of Cardoso’s back and scored four straight points to give Syracuse the lead for the first time since the first quarter.
A missed three from Dayshanette Harris meant that Syracuse would take a 49-47 lead into the final quarter.
The Orange shot 69% in the third quarter and scored nine points off of Pitt’s seven turnovers.
Three different Syracuse players scored in the opening moments of the final quarter to quickly make their two point lead an eight point advantage.
The Panthers slowly clawed back and kept the game close, much like Syracuse in the third quarter. Green continued to support the Pitt offense, drilling a three to make it a three point game, 60-57. Free throws allowed Syracuse to pull ahead by a few possession in the following minutes.
A three from Everett cut the lead to four and prevented the Orange from pulling ahead. Again, it was Everett with the big shot moments later to make it a one point game, 68-67, in Syracuse’s favor.
More free throws from the Orange allowed their lead to increase to three points as the game entered its final minute.
Pitt worked the ball around the offensive zone in the final seconds of the game before the ball was kicked out to Strother, who missed a three pointer.
One final made the Syracuse advantage four points, deeming Pitt’s final three attempt as the horn sounded nothing but an attempt to make the score a little closer.
The Panthers return to the road on Thursday for a game against Wake Forest at 6 p.m.