Following an even opening 10 minutes the Pittsburgh Panthers women’s basketball team pulled away and led by 12 at the half. While that was thought to be the end of the game, the Youngstown State Penguins battled back to win the game 64-50 at Peterson Events Center on Friday afternoon.
“I am extremely disappointed, but it’s over, it’s history,” Pitt head coach Agnus Berenato said. “They did a great job nailing their shots in the second half. It was literally a tale of two halves.”
The key for the Panthers’ success in the first half was getting both of Youngstown State’s two best players into foul trouble. Karen Flagg was deadly early, scoring five 3-pointers, however her three fouls early in the game put her in trouble. YSU’s leading scorer from last season is Brandi Brown, and she committed two fouls in the first half as well.
The Panthers were able to show some of their depth in the first half, playing 10 players, each with various levels of success.
The star was Cora McManus who dazzled inside boxing out, grabbing five rebounds to go along with her eight points in the first half.
Abby Dowd also came off the bench and connected for several 3-pointers, something she excelled at last season and she made the most on the team.
The Panthers as a team shot 54.2 percent from the field in the first half, while Youngstown State shot just 29.6 percent.
Youngstown State made it a game to open the second half when Melissa Thompson nailed two 3-pointers. The resurgence came with a price though, as Flagg picked up her fourth foul and she would foul out with a little over nine minutes left in regulation.
The second half continued to show off Pitt’s Cora McManus, who would get her career high in points with 16, plus seven rebounds.
“I thought I really came with my rebounding but at the same time it was all about kicking the ball out to my guards to make sure they knock down shots,” McManus said. If they don’t I’ve got their backs and have the rebound, so that’s what I tried to focus on.”
“So much of this game is not giving up. You can be big or small, as long as you don’t give up, you’ll produce and that’s what we tried to do today.”
Despite this, the Penguins battled back and tied it up with 7:31 left to go in regulation and they would take the lead when Brown made a two, was fouled and converted the free theow, their first lead of the game.
The Panthers struggled playing from behind and scrambling. As a young team, they forced things a bit much and had way too many turnovers in the second half, allowing for the YSU comeback.
The Penguins had two big 3-pointers down the stretch, including one as the shot clock expired from Monica Touvelle to give the Penguins a 58-50 lead. The visitors made 12 of 33 three point shots.
In the second half the Panthers were outscored 43-17. The Penguins shot 42.9 percent from the field in the second half while the Panthers managed just 22.2 percent.
“You can look back at could’ve, would’ve, should’ve,” Berenato said. “If could’ve were here, she probably could have had the starters not have so much pressure on them. If should’ve were here, the head coach probably should have played the second five and if I had to do it again would I have done it? I don’t know because then you challenge breaking the confidence of your starters and that’s what it’s all about…when people struggle you bring other people in.
“In the first half we played like a team, it was awesome, in the second half the matchups weren’t good with our starters. We thought our players were going to go from 12 and add onto it, why would you not think that? Then they go on a run, do you pull them out? No because it’s a confidence factor. We lost by 12 so I should’ve done it, but again I wasn’t in the game to lose by 12, I’m in the game to win by 24, that’s just who I am.”
Down the stretch with the outcome of the game already decided, the Penguins nailed more free throws to take the game by the horns.
Loliya Briggs played in her first game of her collegiate career after an injury sidelined her last season. Despite the adjustment, she knows that the team, herself included, needs to learn from this and prepare for Sunday against William and Mary, a 1 p.m. game at the Petersen Events Center.
“I feel like a loss is something you need to learn from, so I feel like we have to take the positives from it. What we learned today, we’re not going to make those same mistakes on Sunday and the games to come,” Briggs said. “It’s good to correct them early instead of lose later. We have to learn from this and get better.”
Kids cheer on Panthers at Education Day
With it being the fourth annual School Day, and Berenato’s “favorite day of the year,” the Panthers were treated to a festive crowd filled with excited kids. The children went with schools to watch the game as part of classroom curriculum.
“Just knowing those kids that are there and looking are looking at you and thinking ‘Wow I’m excited to come here’,” guard Brianna Kiesel said. “They’re our fans and we’ve got to show them a good game.”
The event excites Berenato as she looked back to the lone field trip she had as a child.
“It’s always one of my favorite days of the year because I think it is the coolest thing in the world to take a field trip to a basketball game, how cool is that?” Berenato said. “I came up with the school day and it’s something that we did at Georgia Tech and it was my favorite day then. I’m a teacher and an educator and to see the kids really come and have no idea what they’re cheering for it is priceless.
“I have five kids of my own and they’ve been there. I look back at when I was at grammar school and the only field trip I ever took was to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia over the Ben Franklin Bridge. I’ll be honest I was bored to tears, all I saw were these two magnets moving and I couldn’t get it because I didn’t understand science. I think now that if someone would have allowed me to go to a basketball game as a young kid.
“To be a part of this, there has to be a lesson plan involving English, math or geography. I would have done all three. We are giving all of these kids to realize that those 12 Pitt women players and those 12 Youngstown State players are all on full scholarship and they did it because they were good in school first…I think it’s one of the earliest times you can plant in their mind, ‘Pitt, Pitt. I want to go to Pitt’.”