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College Basketball

Pitt women’s basketball set to face Clemson in ACC Tournament



Marley Washenitz stands next to Pitt coach Lance White and calls out to her teammates at Duke on Feb. 2, 2023. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)
Marley Washenitz stands next to Pitt coach Lance White and calls out to her teammates at Duke on Feb. 2, 2023. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

Wednesday is the first day of March, which means it’s win-or-go-home season for Pitt’s women’s basketball team.

In their fifth season under the direction of coach Lance White, the Panthers enter the ACC Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. with the lowest seed, No. 15. Wednesday, Pitt will face off against No. 10 Clemson in the second game of the tournament, tipping off at 3:30 p.m. on ACC Network.

“Obviously, we haven’t performed as well in ACC as we had hoped,” White said Monday during a Zoom call with ACC head coaches. “But I think in the last eight games, we’ve played some really good basketball, really been competitive.”

It has been another uneven and disappointing campaign so far for the Panthers. They finished the regular season with a 10-19 overall record and a 3-15 mark in ACC play, which ties the mark for the most ACC wins in a single season under White. Pitt has posted a winning record in the ACC just once with a 9-7 mark in the 2014-15 season under Suzie McConnell. That season was also the last time Pitt made the NCAA Tournament.

The Panthers started the season 5-0 in non-conference play, then lost 15 of their next 17 games, a stretch that included a 10-game losing streak.

But lately, things haven’t been so bad for Pitt. All three of its ACC wins came in February, where it beat Virginia and Boston College comfortably at home, and then notched a double-overtime victory at Georgia Tech. And in Pitt’s regular season finale, it went to the wire with the three-time reigning ACC champs, N.C. State, losing on the road by just five points this past Sunday.

Key for Pitt in its recent run of success has been its sharp shooting from deep range. The Panthers knocked down at least seven 3-pointers in each of its three ACC wins and in that narrow defeat at N.C. State. And Pitt’s perimeter defense in those four games was also crucial. While the Panthers shot a combined 47% from behind the arc in those four contests, Pitt’s opponents made just 24% of their attempts from deep.

“I think sometimes we turn down shots to try to get better ones, but those shooters got to shoot,” White said. “I think the production of Avery Strickland – she gets her feet set, and I want her to take even a couple more shots. But that really stretches the defense. And during that stretch, we’ve really contained our turnovers.”

Also crucial for the Panthers during their recent run of success is the emergence of Channise Lewis. Over those four games referenced, Lewis averaged 12.5 points, four assists and one rebound per game. And on the season, she’s shooting 39% from 3-point range. In Pitt’s win over Boston College, Lewis scored a career-high 15 points, dished out six assists and had just one turnover.

“Channise Lewis is really playing better. And to have that point guard, just really stepping up and making plays, she’s got that maturity and experience,” White said. “I really think within the last seven games she’s just been kind of cut loose… It took her a minute, but I think she’s playing her best basketball. She has a great basketball IQ and can really make great passes. She’s got such a composure about her that really helps.”

Over that same stretch, Liatu King has played well too, averaging 10.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game.

Pitt’s leading scorer this season has been senior Amber Brown, who averages 9.6 points per game on the season. She is the only Pitt player to start all 29 games. She also posts per game averages of 5.1 rebounds and 1.5 assists.

Pitt is 9-9 all-time against Clemson, but the Tigers won the last meeting 72-57 earlier this season in Pittsburgh. Leading the Tigers is Amari Robinson, who averaged 13.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

“Now, we can cut loose. There’s no pressure on us,” White said. “We’ll go see if we can make some noise in the ACC Tournament.”

Should Pitt win, on Wednesday, it will face No. 7 North Carolina on Thursday at 6 p.m.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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