Pitt came into Sunday afternoon’s game against Wake Forest in search of their first ACC win, and were able to do so, using great defense and good ball handling to limit mistakes and win, 65-57, at the Petersen Events Center.
The win for the Panthers (10-7 overall, 1-5 ACC) was not only the first ACC win this season, but also snapped a 10 game losing streak in the conference that went back to last season. It also makes Pitt head coach Lance White, 3-1 over the Demon Deacons (12-6 overall, 2-5 ACC) in his tenure at the school.
“Overall, that was one of our best defensive efforts we had all year long and again I really think our kids took to heart those last ACC games and learned from it,” White said on his team’s victory.” Changed some things in how they prepare and really took ownership of our team, and you could see the results is that there was an intentionality in how they were playing and how hard they were playing on the defensive end..”
Pitt and Wake Forest played it close throughout, 7-7, for the first six minutes of the first quarter. Then, Pitt was able to get going offensively, with redshirt sophomore forward Cynthia Ezeja making two baskets in the paint and junior guard Dayshanette Harris making a 3-pointer and two foul shots to end the period on a 9-3 run and take a 16-10 lead.
The Demon Deacons were able to cut the lead back to three, 19-16, at the start of the second quarter with some early success at the foul line. The Panthers quickly responded as they finished the half on a 10-5 advantage to take a 29-21 lead into halftime.
Neither team was good shooting the ball in the first half, with Pitt shooting 10-for-35, 28.6%, and Wake Forest shooting 7-for-26, 26.9% from the field. Pitt did have some success from the foul line, making five of their six attempts, while Wake Forest made only five of their 10 foul shots.
The Demon Deacons tied the game early in the third quarter on an 8-0 run, with junior forward Niyah Becker leading the team with four points on a layup and two free throws.
The Panthers were not able to get a point until a free throw from junior forward Amber Brown with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter.
A missed second attempt was saved by a great rebound from junior center Rita Igbowke who passed it out to senior guard Jayla Everett for a 3-pointer to swing things for the Panthers. They would use this as part of a 13-3 run over the next four minutes, with six players contributing, to take a 42-32 lead and force Wake Forest to take a timeout with 1:32 left in the third period.
The Demon Deacons once again cut the lead with an 8-0 run that extended from the end of the third quarter into early in the fourth quarter, as both senior forward Christina Morra and sophomore guard Jewel Spear scored four points each to lead their team.
Both teams traded baskets to the media timeout halfway through the fourth period and the Pitt lead was only two at 47-45.
The Panthers were once again able to take the game under their control, going on a 8-0 run to take a double-digit lead with 2:35 remaining. A big basket once again came off a missed second free throw, as Pitt got the ball back out-of-bounds and an easy pass from Harris to Everett for a mid-range jumper put the lead to five that gave the Panthers momentum.
Pitt was able to take care of the game the rest of the way, making foul shots to stop any chance of Wake Forest making a late comeback, and eventually getting the victory.
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_WBB) January 16, 2022
Coming into today’s game the Panthers were averaging 23.2 turnovers in their first five games of conference play, but were able to hold onto the ball much better than in previous games. Against the Demon Deacons today, the Panthers only turned the ball over 12 times and countered that with 12 assists.
Both Harris and Brown were proud of their team’s performance today, but especially on the defensive end, especially only having one day to prepare for the game.
“I thought our biggest thing was defense today,” Harris said. “We really clamped down and locked in on defense and that wins games.”
“Preparation and defense,” Brown said. “I think really buying into these few practices leading up to…just buying into it…we knew what we had, we faced them and I think we really took ownership of, like, playing defense.”
Brown reached a significant stat today, as she became the fastest Pitt player in the last 20 years to reach 550 career points, 450 career rebounds and 100 career assists, doing so in just 67 games.
AB5️⃣ does it all‼️
With her last rebound, @_Necole123 is the fastest Pitt player (67 games) in the last 2️⃣0️⃣ years to get to these three career totals ⬇️ 🤯
— Pitt Basketball (@Pitt_WBB) January 16, 2022
Pitt will travel to take on Virginia Tech on Thursday night, January 20, in Blacksburg, V.A. in hopes of being able to build a winning streak in conference play.