After falling to Georgia Tech on Sunday, Pitt’s women’s basketball squad will now enter the ACC tournament with a 5-13 record, including a 3-12 mark in conference play.
Head coach Lance White’s team has now lost four straight games, all to ACC opponents. With the tournament kicking off on Wednesday, White is trying to put those losses in the past and look at the bright side of his team’s efforts.
“I thought our kids played extremely hard,” White told Pittsburgh Sports Now on Sunday. “We talked a lot about passion and heart, and I think those are the two major words I would describe this basketball team as. Playing a little bit shorthanded, we came into a hostile environment and really battled against a really good Georgia Tech team. Once again, it’s really close and not good enough.”
With injuries to regular starters Gabbie Green and Dayshanette Harris, the Panthers were forced to feature a very young rotation these past few games. Even though the team did not come out on top, White feels that his young players are learning more and more and gaining valuable experience along the way.
“Hard defines excellence,” he said. “Hard defines success. We have really been latching onto that. There is going to be hard moments, and now who are we going to be in those hard moments. This team is learning, a lot of this game we had 2-3 freshman, couple of sophomores, and Jayla out on the court, a lot. They don’t know what that feels like. How hard shots are and how rough, physical the game is. They have to make a choice. The teammates have to make a choice. I think these kids are growing up. We can talk about how hard it is to play in the ACC but until you have to go through it, you don’t know.”
The 12th-seeded Panthers will be taking on the 13th-seeded Boston College Eagles, who are currently 6-11, including 2-11 in conference play. After their game was postponed twice this season, the two teams finally met just under two weeks ago, resulting in a Pitt victory. In that contest, the Panthers were led by Jayla Everett, who has seen her offensive production increase to a great extent since the injuries to Green and Harris.
With her last bucket, junior @jayla_dianne4 has surpassed the 900 career point plateau.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_WBB) February 28, 2021
In Sunday afternoon’s game, Everett finished with 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting in what White called her best performance in a Pitt uniform. While playing 35 minutes and having the ball in her hands on the majority of possessions, she only amassed one turnover. For Everett, she says that she plays best when everything slows down.
“I think I did the best at just being composed and letting the game come to me,” Everett said. “A lot of times I am thinking I have got to score, because I know my team needs it, whereas today I was like, just play within, just let it come to you, just go with the flow, and try to provide what you need to provide. I am a pass-first person. I like to pass the ball. A lot of times I will miss my open shots, so I am getting clips on clips and seeing how I can get open. It’s more so just me being able to play within and just learning. Just being able to be composed because I feel like I get anxious and then start moving too fast and I feel like that is what messes me up.”
Although their record may not exactly show it, Everett believes that her team has improved a great deal since the beginning of the season. Heading into the tournament, the Panthers rank No. 12 in scoring as well as No. 15 in defense, allowing 73 points per game.
“I think we are way better, honestly,” Everett said when asked about the differences between day one of the regular season and now. “I think coming in we didn’t really know how to use each other, how to connect with each other. Whereas now, we all have the same goal. And when you have the same goal, you’re all willing to just buy in and sacrifice your body, sacrifice playing time, sacrifice whatever needs to be sacrificed just to get out there and play and just to win the game. Honestly, from the beginning to now, I am loving it. Despite win, lose, or draw, I am loving it.”
The Panthers will look to end the losing streak and make a run at an ACC tournament title on Wednesday, March 3 at 2 p.m. against Boston College. The first and second rounds of the tournament will be televised on AT&T’s Regional Sports Networks, while the semifinals will be on ACC Network and then the championship will be on ESPN2.