PITTSBURGH — Pitt struggled shooting all night, turned the ball over far too often and lost its starting point guard after playing just two minutes while hosting No. 3 Louisville at Petersen Events Center on Thursday night.
But the Panthers trailed by just six at the half and were hanging around and fighting against the league leading Cardinals until one Dana Evans emerged from her slumber.
The reigning ACC player of the year and current ACC leading scorer had just eight points at the half, but broke out for 21 in the second period to tie a career high and lead the Cardinals to an 82-58 rout of the Panthers.
Simply put, the Cardinals have the best player in the conference and Pitt doesn’t, and on a night when not everything else was working for Pitt, that was more than enough to turn the tide in favor of the Cardinals.
“Dana Evans was awesome. … Whenever you play great teams, everything has to go perfect in order to have a chance to beat them,” head coach Lance White lamented after the game, and that was clearly not the case from the start for the Panthers.
Dayshanette Harris left the game with a lower-body injury after playing just two minutes. Harris was injured after a driving layup. She attempted to return to the game, but was unable to. White did not have a postgame update on Harris’ status, but losing her for any significant amount of time would be a crushing blow to the Panthers, who do not have a traditional backup point guard in their rotation.
Instead, leading scorer Jayla Everett and fellow off-ball guard Amy Hayford moved to point guard but the result was a sloppy and ineffective Pitt offense. The Panthers turned the ball over 20 times, five from Hayford and four from Everett, and shot just 31.8% from the floor.
“Once we lost Day, it threw us off a little a bit,” White said. “That throws everything out of whack.”
While the loss of Harris certainly hurt Pitt’s chances in the game, it also opened up opportunities elsewhere.
Senior guard Gabbie Green took advantage.
With Everett and Hayford playing the point, Green became Pitt’s primary perimeter shooting option and she had a stellar game, setting a season high with 20 points while shooting 5 of 8 from 3-point range.
“I was so proud of Gabbie tonight and the things she was able to do at both ends of the floor,” Pitt head coach Lance White said. “She has to be that next weapon for us.”
“My teammates are always encouraging me to take the open shot, take the first shot, and that’s what I kept doing,” Green said. “I try to be that defensive spark, get us going on defense. As far as offense, if that happens, then I appreciate it. If not, I know my teammates will do what they do.”
Pitt has won three game in ACC play this season, which already means it will be the best season for Pitt women’s basketball since 2016-17 at the very least. That’s not saying much, as the program has gone through some very tough times as of late.
But the battle and fight to come back to tie Louisville and the second quarter and trail by just six at the half shows White the progress his team is making.
“Last year, I didn’t think we had the looks or had the chances,” White said of his team’s 32- and 34-point losses to the Cardinals last season. “This time, I thought we had good enough chances. We just can’t produce yet.”