PITTSBURGH — After going 1-2 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Pitt (6-2) returned to action at the Petersen Events Center on Wednesday night and defeated Rutgers, 58-50, in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
Guard Jayla Everett led Pitt with 18 points and had three triples. Forward Amber Brown and guard Liatu King also both had double-digits, with Brown scoring 12 points and King having 11.
“If I don’t shoot the ball and keep attacking nine times out of 10 my teammates are going to yell at me, honestly,” Everett said about her 18-point performance. “So, for me, I’m just reminding myself to stay level-headed because sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me when I’m not making shots.”
Pitt finished the game shooting 18-of-52 from the field (34.6%) and was 3-of-12 from behind the arc (25.0%). Rutgers was 20-of-53 (37.7) and made 6-of-18 three-pointers (33.3%).
Pitt went to the free-throw line a whopping 31 times and converted 19 of its shots (61.3%). In comparison, Rutgers went to the free-throw line just four times. Center Rita Igbokwe led the Panthers in rebounds with 12 (six offensive and six defensive).
“Our major statistics that we track are rebounds and that’s what we have to be built around,” Pitt head coach Lance White said after the game. “We have to control the glass and then can we score more free-throws than our opponents attempt. That means we are an attacking basketball team. And, so everything that we try to preach is that we are going to be the more aggressive, relentless rebounders that give us a chance to get to the line more. Now we got to finish a lot more of those.”
At the end of the first quarter, Rutgers (4-5) led Pitt, 15-10. The Scarlet Knights went on a 6-0 run midway through the quarter, and guard Shug Dickson led Rutgers with six points.
Rutgers continued to shoot well, as Liz Martino nailed a three-pointer to start the second quarter. Trailing 22-13 with just under 5:30 remaining in the second quarter, Everett made a three-pointer for the Panthers to cut Rutgers’ lead to 22-16. Pitt kept pace with Rutgers for the rest of the second quarter and trailed 26-23 at halftime.
Pitt didn’t shoot well from the field in the first half, as they converted just 8-of-27 shots (29.6%). From behind the arc, Pitt was 2-of-7 (28.6%). Rutgers was 11-of-27 from the field (42.9%) and made three of nine three-point attempts (33.3%).
Everett was the leading scorer for Pitt at halftime with eight points and had two three-pointers. Dickson led Rutgers with eight points, as well.
Early in the third quarter, Everett nailed her third three-pointer of the game to give Pitt a 31-30 lead. Near the end of the quarter, Pitt went on an 8-0 run and led 40-36 heading into the fourth quarter. King scored seven points for the Panthers within the final five minutes of the third quarter. The Panthers could have had a larger lead, but they shot 9-of-18 (50%) from the free-throw line through three quarters of play. Four of the missed foul shots came in the third quarter.
With Pitt leading 44-42 and just under seven minutes remaining, Kierra Sanderlin made a deep three to give Rutgers a 45-44 advantage. Pitt answered as Igbokwe made a layup, along with a foul shot after going to the free-throw line.
With just over two minutes left, Rutgers tied the game at 50-50 after Osh Brown made a layup and free-throw. On the next possession, Everett went to the free-throw line and missed both shots, however, Igbokwe came up with the rebound and Dayshanette Harris ended up going to the free-throw line where she made both foul shots to give the Panthers a 52-50 lead. Everett then made both of her foul shots on the next possession to extend Pitt’s lead to 54-50.
After a missed three-pointer by Dickson, Harris got the ball quickly down court to Brown for a layup to put Pitt up 56-50 with 21.5 seconds remaining. Rutgers turned the ball over on its next possession and Pitt was able to pull off a 58-50 victory.
Pitt’s next game is on Saturday, Dec. 4, at Ball State. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.