PITTSBURGH — Aside from turnovers, Pitt did everything right in the first half against Syracuse on Sunday.
After giving up 26 points in the first quarter against the Orange under two weeks ago, the Panthers limited their ACC foe to 22 points in the entire first half. In the process, the Panthers held Cuse to a 22.6% shooting mark.
That strong start made the narrow loss, Pitt’s third defeat in a row, a much harder pill to swallow in the eyes of Lance White.
“This one really hurts,” said White. “Our kids responded, they prepared extremely well, and we just couldn’t finish it. That, for me, is really disappointing.”
Disappointment has summarized things well for the Panthers, who haven’t won a game since their 79-69 victory against Clemson on Jan. 26.
In the handful of games since that win, Pitt suffered two double-digit losses before nearly pulling out the win on Sunday against Syracuse. That strong first half is a reflection of his team’s growth and maturity, according to White.
“Our kids are understanding our philosophy and the system that we have to play,” said White. “Now it comes down to that trust piece on, whenever somebody beats you, you can’t foul them. You’ve got to rely on your help side.”
Guard Gabbie Green credits the defensive play for Pitt’s strong first half as well. She did admit that the defensive pressure needs to stay consistent throughout all 40 minutes.
“We were pressuring their guards very well in the beginning,” said Green. “We got them to overpass a lot of balls and we got a lot of steals on the back side. It’s just us doing it the whole time and not getting tired.”
Pitt has been outscored in the second half in each game during this losing streak. White knows exactly when the problems started for his team as a result.
“It’s the start of the third quarter for me,” said White. “We made four crucial errors in a row.”
When Pitt and Syracuse played in January, the Panthers came back and nearly took the lead before allowing a big run from the Orange in the final minutes of the game. On Sunday, it was Syracuse that mounted a comeback to stun Pitt and continue their rough run of games at home. White thinks that losses like this can both motivate and help prevent his players from making similar mistakes.
“Those are the moments that you grow from,” said White. “If they want to change what we are doing here at Pitt, it has to hurt and then you have to do whatever you can to not let it happen again.”
Green shared similar thoughts to her coach in regards to the team learning how to finish a game.
“We’ve got to learn how to finish,” said Green. “I just hope that, like coach said, this hurts enough to where we all have a different expectation for the team and we learn how to finish and how to win.”
White says that his team will continue to takes things one game at a time and that his team is determined to get back into the win column.
“If you do the work, you take ownership of that,” said White. “It’s gonna happen. These kids want it really badly, and they’re doing the work that it takes.”