In Pitt’s first true road game of the season, the Panthers (7-2) held off mid-major Ball State (4-3), 64-54 in Muncie, Ind.
Pitt was able to get a great performance from junior forward Amber Brown, who led the way with her sixth double-double of her career. She scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, a career high. The Panthers’ 7-2 start to the season is the best for the program since the 2016-17 season, where the team started with the same record.
Pitt got out to an early 7-0 start and then held a 12-5 going into the first media timeout. Brown and junior guard Emy Hayford led the Panthers with five points each in the first quarter. Six Panthers were able to score in the first quarter, driving to the paint and exposing the Cardinals’ interior defense.
Ball State was able to get the lead down to five at the end of the first quarter, 20-15, using two 3-pointers from junior Sydney Freeman and another one from senior Thelma Dis Agustsdottir.
Although Pitt didn’t lose the lead in the second quarter, they turned the ball over six times and Ball State was able to capitalize, cutting the lead to two, 36-34, at halftime. The Cardinals got to the line frequently as well, making eight of the 14 free throws, compared to the Panthers four made free throws.
Brown continued to be vital to Pitt’s offense, scoring eight of the team’s 16 points in the second quarter, while Ball State shared the offensive load amongst six players to get back into the game
Both teams went back-and-forth with scoring to start the third quarter. Redshirt junior Annie Clephane scored eight points for Ball State, while Pitt relied on Brown and also some key contributions from sophomore bench players, guard Taisha Exanor and Tracy Heuston, who both provided a 3-pointer and a layup, respectively.
The Panthers used a 9-0 run to end the third quarter to break away from the Cardinals and establish a 10 point lead, 56-46. Exanor and Hueston again made a 3-pointer and layup, respectively, and junior guard Dayshanette Harris made two free throws and a jumper to solidify the lead.
Pitt shot poorly from the field in the fourth quarter, 1-10, but was able to make up for it with decent foul shooting, 5-8, and solid defense.
The change in defense came when the Panthers switched from using either centers, junior Rita Igbokwe or fifth year Mary Dunn, and instead playing small ball, which utilizes guards and forwards to react quicker on defense and push the ball up the court quicker on offense.
Exanor and Hueston seeing more playing time today was a big part of this strategy, as their length and quickness shut down the Cardinals offense, and they themselves were able to spread the Cardinals defensively and score points. Exanor finished with 11 points, which is a career high for her, and she was the second leading scorer behind Brown.
Ball State shot 8-29, 27.5%, from the floor in the second half and their 3-point shooting was stifled by Pitt’s tough defense, as they made one 3-pointer from 14 attempts.
The Panthers’ once again proved they are one of the best teams in the nation in regards to their rebounding. They came into the game in the top 5 in the country in both rebounds per game and offensive rebounds per game, 48.5 and 17.5, respectively. Against the Cardinals, the Panthers outrebounded them 51-30 and 17-11 on offensive rebounds.
Pitt will return to the Petersen Events Center on Tuesday, December 7th and will take on Coppin State (4-3) at 7 p.m.