PITTSBURGH — In their final non-conference game of the season, Pitt took care of business against Holy Cross, winning 67-56 at Petersen Events Center, Wednesday afternoon.
The win for the Panthers (9-4) made them 9-2 in non-conference games this season, which is the best since the 2006-07 season, when the team went 14-3. The Panthers were able to win this game off of good defense, holding the Crusaders (6-5) to 34.9% shooting for the game, and also created 15 steals, the second most for them this season.
Pitt head coach Lance White was proud of his team’s efforts during the game and praised Holy Cross’s efforts in the fourth quarter to get back into the game, but spoke about how his team’s mistakes led to the comeback.
“So much of it was us,” White said. “We had those lapses mentally and we got tired and quit doing the things that put us in position [to win]. We were one foot already on the plane headed home instead of finishing where your feet are and being in that moment and just locking in and doing what we need to defensively.”
Both teams traded baskets to start the game before Pitt went on a 17-2 run to take a 22-9 lead at the end of the first quarter. Six different Panthers scored on the run and junior guard Emy Hayford led with seven points in the quarter, while fellow junior guard, Dayshanette Harris, had five assists.
Neither team could get anything to go in the second quarter, with each team scoring seven points as Pitt shot 25% from the field and Holy Cross went even lower, shooting 18.8%. Both teams also had an issue taking care of the basketball, as Pitt turned the ball over seven times and Holy Cross eight times.
The teams were even once again in the third quarter, as the Panthers outscored the Crusaders, 17-16, to keep a 48-32 lead. The Crusaders had most of their offensive success from 3-point range, making four of their eight attempts, with senior forward Madison Demski making three of them.
Holy Cross was able to put pressure on Pitt throughout the fourth quarter, as they took a comfortable win for Pitt and quickly made it an uneasy one.
The Crusaders started off on an 8-1 run to start the period and cut the lead to nine at 49-40, leading to White to call a timeout, with 6:26 left. The teams continued to go back-and-forth scoring points, with Holy Cross getting within six points with three minutes remaining.
The Panthers managed to keep their composure and make some big shots down the stretch to ward off a comeback from the Crusaders. This included some good free throw shooting from the Panthers, as they made seven foul shots down the stretch to keep a double-digit victory intact.
For the game, Pitt shot 18-for-23 from the line, 78.3%, their best free throw percentage of the season, and a big improvement from last game against Notre Dame, where Pitt only made four of eight attempts.
Sophomore guard Taisha Exanor was lauded by White for her performance off the bench, as she scored 11 points, grabbed three rebounds and made three steals. Exanor was happy with her team’s performance, especially after suffering back-to-back blowout losses to start conference play.
“I think we ran the floor well,” Exanor said. “We were hitting shots and we were just playing like we usually play in practice. We were just being us.”
The Panthers will have a week off before they take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets on Dec. 30 at home at 4 p.m. and will look to get their first ACC win of the season.