PITTSBURGH — Pitt women’s basketball dismantled NAIA opponent Point Park, 117-49, in an exhibition game Monday night at the Petersen Events Center to begin the 2023-24 season.
The Panthers participated in their first exhibition match since the 2019-20 season, when they defeated Pitt-Johnstown 76-62. They played in three straight seasons with exhibition games prior to that one, a 68-46 win over Gannon in 2018, a 73-68 loss to Indiana (Pa.) in 2017 and a 72-40 win over them in 2016.
The win marked the first game that head coach Tory Verdi coached his team in. Verdi is the 10th head coach to take over Pitt women’s basketball. He took over from Lance White, who served as the Panthers’ head coach for five seasons, before athletic director Heather Lyke fired him for accruing a record of 42-99, the worst five year stretch of any head coach in Panthers history.
Verdi liked the effort he saw out of his team in the blowout win. It wasn’t perfect, but Verdi saw the discipline and execution from the Panthers that he has been working to instill in this new team with only four returners from the previous season.
“It was fun,” Verdi said on coaching the team. “It was fun to finally see what we’re capable of doing. I see it every single day in practice. I think our players enjoy playing against somebody different. They’ve been beating up on each other now for the last 25 practices. So, to come out here and just see us, systematically, on both sides of the ball and I thought that we did a lot of good things.”
Pitt took a sizable lead in the first quarter, jumping out to a 37-5 lead, which included a run of 32 consecutive points. They would increase that lead to 61-21 at the break, to 89-27 at the third quarter and then finishing it off 117-49.
The Panthers shot 47-for-70, 67.1% from the floor, compared to the Pioneers who shot 14-for-62, 22.6%. They also forced the Pioneers to turn it over 27 times, while also outrebounding them 54 to 27.
Graduate student forward and Seton Hall transfer Jala Jordan led Pitt with 25 points on 10-for-17 from the field including two 3-pointers.
Senior forward Liatu King also had a great day herself, making 11-of-14 baskets from the floor and scoring 24 points. King gave credit to her team for making her a captain prior to the season, which is something that has pushed her to not only become a better player, but a leader too.
“I felt good, as anyone would,” King said on her game against Point Park. “I just really thank my team for trusting me. I was named captain a couple weeks ago and with that, it comes with a heavy load. As time went on, we’ve built chemistry. Building chemistry off the court leads to good chemistry on the court. We’re feeding the hot hand, I’m not the only one who scored that many points. Just feeding the hot hand and playing into the defense’s weaknesses. We did good slipping, setting screens and rolling and with that we executed, and it shows on the stat sheet.”
USC transfer in junior guard Bella Perkins had a great game herself, shooting 9-for-14 from the field, including 3-for-4 from behind the arc for 21 points. She and Jordan also led Pitt with three steals each.
Sophomore guard Marley Washenitz, a co-captain alongside King, scored 14 points in the win, while also leading Pitt women’s basketball with six assists.
Pitt women’s basketball will face Yale in their season opener next Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 7:00 p.m. at the Petersen Events Center to officially begin their 2023-24 season. Verdi said that the exhibition game, as well as a scrimmage against Siena last week, played a role in preparing the team for the beginning of a new season.
“I think this was a great step for us,” Verdi said. “We had a great scrimmage [against Siena], now another great exhibition. We’ve got another week in front of us here and we’re going to continue to win the day. As we’re going to continue to win the day, it’s going to put us in a position to win basketball games, but we’re going to take it one day at a time.”