PITTSBURGH — Pitt built a double-digit half-time lead against Clemson and looked like they’d finally win their first ACC game of the season. Instead, they played a poor second half and lost once again, 72-57, Sunday afternoon at the Petersen Events Center.
The Panthers (7-10 overall, 0-6 ACC) make it three straight games where they lead at halftime, but lose the game in the end. The loss to the Tigers (12-7 overall, 3-4 ACC) is the first since 2019, as the Panthers had a three game winning streak in the series. The Panthers also make it 16 straight losses in ACC play, dating back to Jan. 27, 2022 when they beat the Tigers on the road.
Pitt head coach Lance White spoke of the game as a “tale of two halves” and said he was disappointed with how his team came out in the third quarter. He said that the runs that Clemson made at the end of the second quarter and the start of the third quarter changed the game in their favor.
“It’s so frustrating to watch us compete and play so hard against Louisville and then whenever you come home and you can’t bring that same energy and competition level,” White said. “We’re just searching for consistency. Consistency in doing what we have to do, run a game plan and then play your best basketball. We just can’t find that rhythm that it takes to do it and then we get unconfident it just steamrolls in a way that takes us back out of it.”
Pitt fell behind early in the first quarter, before finishing on a 12-0 run over the final five and half minutes to take an 18-10 lead. Senior guard Emy Hayford and junior forward Gabby Hutcherson made 3-pointers, while senior forward Amber Brown made two layups to give Pitt the lead at the end of the period.
The Panthers managed to build a lead as big as 13 midway through the second quarter and took a 10 point lead into halftime. The Panthers shot 54.2% from the field and made four of their nine 3-pointers in the first half, compared to the Tigers who shot 30.0% and only made one of their eight 3-pointers.
Clemson chose to open up the second half with a full court press to try and force Pitt to make turnovers and it worked to great effect. They forced seven turnovers and scored 10 points on them as they outscored Pitt 24-8 in the third quarter to take a 48-42 lead.
The Tigers continued to build their lead in the fourth quarter, while the Panthers offense failed to execute, and they finished off with a 15-point victory.
The Panthers committed 21 turnovers against the Tigers, the most in a game this season, which the Tigers also scored 24 points off of.
Clemson outscored Pitt 48-23 in that second half and shot 20-for-31, 64.5% from the floor. They also limited their turnovers to just three, created 18 assists and made four of their eight 3-pointers.
Pitt, conversely, shot 30% from the field and 18.2% from 3-point range in the second half. They failed to build a rhythm offensively and also allowed easy chances for Clemson inside.
White said that the difference in the game came when Clemson attacked the high post and used it to their advantage.
“We went away from whatever we were supposed to do,” White said. “We said the high post was most important throughout the whole game and they were able to get it to the high post. We just didn’t execute the game plan. We did it in the first half and we kept it out of there and surrounded there. Then in the second half, we didn’t do it.”
Tigers sophomore center Eno Inyang took advantage of that weak defense in the paint, as she scored all 12 of her points in the second half. Senior guard Daisha Bradford also scored all eight of her points in the second half as well.
The Panthers saw junior forward Liatu King score 10 points and grab 13 rebounds for her fourth double-double on the season. Brown scored 10 points as well, making it six straight games for her in double-digits.
Panthers sophomore forward Maliyah Johnson led the team with 15 points in the game. She said that the team needs to work on their mentality coming out of halftime so they can capitalize on those halftime leads they’ve created in different games.
“I think it’s just a mentality,” Johnson said. “Going into the half, when we go in the locker room, we talk about the things we need to keep doing and then when we come out on the court and I don’t know what it is. We just don’t reciprocate the same energy…Everybody just needed to be locked in and we wasn’t. We were missing assignments, letting them get the high post multiple times and coaches kept telling us to watch the high post. So it’s just a lock-in thing for us.”
Pitt hosts No. 13 Virginia Tech on Thursday, Jan. 18 in hopes of earning their first ACC win against a tough opponent.