It was a tight ballgame throughout, however their inability to excute in key points of the second half allowed the Rider Broncs to pull away and win by a 65-48 score.
“I’m just really at a loss,” Head Coach Agnus Berenato said. “Today was a very disappointing loss for us. We never firing on all cylinders. After the first couple of possessions we went stagnant, we miss a shot and it becomes contagious. When we got behind we got into the philosophy of playing almost not to lose instead of playing to win, and that has to stop.”
The Panthers opened the game with a seven to zero lead. Rider could not make a basket, however something clicked and they were able to convert a three point play, followed by a floater two and gain possession of a gritty jump ball. Eventually they would cut the lead to just one.
Pittsburgh seemed to struggle with their consistency and had their struggles in a low scoring first half. A three pointer from Sironda Chambers, Rider’s leading scorer tied the game up at 17.
With 1:49 left in the first half, Rider got their first lead of the game as Carleigh Brown made a shot and was fouled by Marquel Davis. She made the free throw to give her team the three point advantage.
The Panthers offense remained stagnant in the first half but stayed in the ball game as Rider’s ball control was inconsistent. With 0.7 seconds left and the Panthers down four, Brittany Gordon found Asia Logan who made a layup leaving Pitt with a better taste in their mouths despite being down 24-22 at the half.
The Panthers shot 25.8% from the floor in the first half while Rider had a slightly better 29.4%. Chambers led all scorers in the half with 10 points while Logan led Pittsburgh with six points and nine rebounds. Points in the paint have usually been an advantage for Pitt however they were outscored 16-10 in the opening 20 minutes. The two teams also combined for 18 total turnovers.
To open the second half, Brianna Kiesel tied up the score. Rider retook the lead when Loliya Briggs had her third foul of the game from behind the three point line. Mikal Johnson made all three free throws, but the Panthers did not panic as an Ashlee Anderson three tied the game.
The Broncs appeared to get momentum going into the first media timeout when Johnson made a three followed by Chambers making a two, however Chyna Golden made a two, was fouled and upon making the free throw tied the game at 32.
Both teams battled and with just under 14 minutes left in the half, Abby Dowd made a two giving the Panthers a 37-36 lead.
This was not enough though, as Rider would come back and take a 39-37 lead.
With 9:59 left in the game, Taylor Wentzel made a two despite being fouled and Berenato slammed her hand against the scorer’s table.
“It was the shot that broke the camel’s back,” Berenato said. “I couldn’t believe that went in and that we gave that up. It’s kind of how it went the whole game.”
With 7:42 left in regulation the Panthers trailed 47-43. The teams were trading baskets and for a couple of possessions it was a showdown between Kiesel and Caitlin Bopp. Kiesel was the first Panther to get in double digits but still they were unable to stop the momentum Rider acquired.
Coming out of the final timeout, Chambers made a three pointer to put Rider up by double digits and ruining any thoughts of a Panthers victory.
“It’s a pretty tough loss,” Kiesel said. “Practice has been a little stagnant but that’s no excuse. It’s a tough one for us.”
Chambers led all scorers with 20 points while Kiesel led Pitt with 17 points scoring 12 of those in the second half.
The Panthers continued to be plagued by turnovers and they had just seven assists versus 17 turnovers for the game. It left Berenato shaking her head.
“At one point I just said, ‘what are we doing’,” Berenato said. “I thought we were making great stops. We were stopping them and then we were giving the ball right back. Whether it was a steal or a fumble, we picked it up and made a crazy turnover. It’s extremely frustrating for me. We had balls go through a couple people’s hands. We’ll be back at the drawing boards tomorrow.”
Kiesel had four of those turnovers and despite leading the team in scoring this game, she feels the need to improve.
“As a point guard, I’m the one that makes the calls. Usually I know what defenses we’re in, I just try to get everyone hyped and excited and I just came up short myself. I had four turnovers I think I needed to step my game up as well.”
The ‘drawing board’ Berenato referred to is what she calls an ‘interactive and learning practice’. It is her hope to see a more complete game when the Panthers play Mount St. Mary’s Thursday at the Petersen Events Center with the tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m.