RALEIGH, N.C. – Undermanned and outmatched, it was clear that Pitt’s women’s basketball team didn’t have much of a chance Thursday afternoon against No. 2 N.C. State. From start to finish, the Wolfpack showed why they’re at the top of the ACC standings and why the Panthers are near the bottom.
N.C. State had a 20-5 lead just seven minutes into the game and coasted from there. The Wolfpack won 83-53 inside Reynolds Coliseum on Senior Day, handing Pitt its third straight loss.
“They’re just a really good basketball team that we’re not ready to face yet,” Pitt head coach Lance White said. “We’re still young, we’re still growing… They’ve just got more firepower than we have.”
The Wolfpack (16-2; 11-2 ACC) shot 16-of-26 from beyond the arc and forced Pitt into 23 turnovers. Eight different players made at least one three-pointer for N.C. State, while Pitt made just seven deep shots all night and shot just 19-of-48 (39.6%) from the floor.
It was the second straight game Pitt (5-12; 3-11 ACC) played without star sophomore guard Dayshanette Harris, who is still recovering from a right knee injury she suffered a week ago against Louisville. Harris leads the team in passing and is second in scoring with 4.6 assists and 12.4 points per-game. She was on the sideline wearing a brace, and senior guard Gabbie Green had a walking boot on her left foot.
White still isn’t sure if Harris will be ready for the ACC tournament, but is hopeful about Green’s return.
Jayla Everett may have felt the pressure of Harris and Green’s absences as she shot just 2-of-15 from the floor. The transfer from New Mexico finished with seven points.
The player who really led the Panthers on the stat sheet – and who showed no signs of backing down against an exceptional opponent – was Sandrine Clesca, who made her first start of the season. The freshman from Canada scored a career-best 12 points on nine shots, and also had three rebounds and two steals.
“I was attacking,” Clesca said. “Push the ball. Don’t wait, just go.”
White added: “I’m proud of Sandrine. I thought she played really well.”
Despite Clesca’s best efforts, it was apparent early on that N.C. State would easily dispatch the Panthers. The Wolfpack connected on 5-of-6 three’s in the opening period, and veteran forward Kayla Jones dizzied Pitt with her passing, quickly racking up three assists in just a few minutes. The senior would finish the game with 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists in what was likely her final home game.
“We try to recruit people who can shoot the ball. They obviously did a great job of that today. Today it just seemed like, at times, we were knocking them down,” N.C. State head coach Wes Moore said. “When you shoot 16-of-26 from three, everything’s fine.”
With the win, N.C. State capped off a perfect 11-0 record at home this season. Raina Perez and Jakia Brown-Turner each chipped in 14 points, and ACC Player of the Year candidate Elissa Cunane had 13 points, two assists and eight boards in just 24 minutes.
N.C. State reached its largest lead of the game – 37 points – in the third quarter after it broke off a 25-3 run over a span of about eight minutes. In all, the Wolfpack shot 45.9% from the floor and dished out 18 assists.
“They were great shooters,” Clesca said. “It was hard for us to protect the paint all the time.”
While the margin was wide, White is hoping that his young players can learn from watching this tape.
“This is great film for them, because it’s what they’re going to have to do in the future,” White said. “Obviously, against (N.C. State), you have no room for error. You have to do everything, right. You have to make all your shots and you have to hope that they miss a few, and neither one of those things happened.”
Sophomore forward Rita Igbokwe didn’t start Thursday for Pitt and totaled just two points and four rebounds in 14 minutes of play. With zero blocks, her 21-game streak of recording at least one swat came to an end. It was the longest streak of such among active ACC players second among all Power 5 players in the nation. Igbokwe is fifth in the ACC in total blocks this season with 27, but couldn’t get a palm on a Wolfpack attempt Thursday.
Pitt wraps up its regular season on Sunday with a game at Georgia Tech. A victory in Atlanta would go a long way in helping White’s side build some momentum ahead of the ACC Tournament, which begins in Greensboro, North Carolina on March 3.