The Pitt Pep Band played The Commodores 1977 hit Brick House, mere moments after the university’s women’s basketball team shot 1-for-13 from the field and had four points attached to its name.
Pitt would drop a 54-39 game to Duke Thursday evening at the Petersen Events Center, its fourth loss in the last five games.
“Obviously disappointed in the offensive end of the floor,” Pitt coach Lance White said. “I thought our defense was good for a long period of time, holding them to 50 points and having a chance throughout the game, but you miss so many points in the paint and all of that stuff, and you don’t have a chance to win. We’ve really challenged our team with our mental toughness and I think we missed assignments early and it breaks us. It’s hard to get back offensively and get into a rhythm… It’s those moments you need to make a play and you just have to have big-time players make big-time plays and we just haven’t had those players step up yet and be able to do it.”
Five Pitt (11-11/2-9 ACC) players scored six points, while Amber Brown, Taisha Exanor and Rita Igbokwe each totaled eight rebounds.
Duke (14-7/5-6 ACC) was led by Lexi Gordon’s 12 points, 10 of which were scored in the first half. Shayeann Day-Wilson finished with 10 points and six assists.
Pitt’s lone first-quarter field goal came off Amber Brown’s hands off a Duke turnover and the Panthers would be held without another for 9:33 of game action.
Gordon converted three three-point baskets in the first half, with each coming off a Day-Wilson pass.
Duke opened the game on a 10-2 run and Pitt shot 7.7% from the field. The Panthers did not record an assist on its lone opening-quarter basket and committed five turnovers. Duke led 15-4 after one quarter.
The misses became contagious on Pitt’s end with two of its key pieces, Jayla Everett and Dayshanette Harris going 2-for-14 and 1-for-10 from the field respectively.
Pitt also was 8-for-32 from the field on its layups.
“It’s those first ones that we missed then it made everyone else more nervous and panicked,” said White. “Now those shots get harder and no one on our team right now can step up and calm us down and make a big shot or big play. We start rushing everything we do offensively, or we stand and watch Day and Jay try to make plays and then they take worse shots. It’s the mentality that it takes at this level that makes it hard to get over the hump.”
Pitt would win the second quarter 14-11 after Brown’s second-chance layup ended the team’s lengthy skid without a basket, one which appeared to catch both White and Emy Hayford off guard following the game.
“I think all of it is mental,” said Hayford. “Personally, when I miss a layup, I’m going to be more tentative, and I start overpassing and that is more of the case with everyone on the team. We can’t do that, we’ve got to keep shooting, we’ve got to keep finding each other and trust each other.”
It was a five-point game in the latter stages of the second quarter, but Elizabeth Balogun converted an and-one play, allowing Duke to lead 26-18 at halftime.
Pitt again struggled from the field shooting at a 17.6% mark and could not cut its halftime deficit, instead trailing 39-29 after three quarters.
The fourth quarter saw Pitt continue its struggles with stringing consistent positive plays together as multiple scoreless droughts allowed Duke to pull away and secure a victory.
Pitt now has a week to get back to the drawing boards before it travels to face North Carolina at 6 p.m. The Tar Heels are 9-1 at home this season.
“Our biggest challenge, (is) to continue gaining confidence and know that we’re in ACC play,” White said. “Every game is going to be hard and present its own challenge. We’re better whenever we can play loose, have great chemistry and play for each other. You have to prepare their mentality to be tougher and understand the importance of every decision out on the floor.”