The Pittsburgh Panthers women’s basketball team looked to try and end their string of conference losses, a streak to goes back to 2011 and much like their comeback attempt were unsuccessful, falling 74-65 to the Marquette Golden Eagles.
“I thought it was a great game,” Head Coach Agnus Berenato said. “It was really competitive. I felt like we were going to win the entire time, and I felt that the effort from our team was terrific. I felt the environment was great. Unfortunately, what hurt us were our free throws. We’re a pretty good free throw shooting team. We work hard on our free throws. Had we made our free throws, we would have gotten the win.”
Things started out well as Brianna Kiesel was aggressive and scored seven points however Marquette would stay in it and then make a run that forced a Panthers timeout as they pulled ahead by seven points.
The Golden Eagles kept their lead and extended it to double digits in the first half. It appeared as though everytime the Panthers would get something going that Marquette had an answer on the other end.
The Panthers would try to come back in the final minutes as Asia Logan became a factor in the game as the deficit went back to single digits.
In the final play of the half, Marquel Davis went for a fast break lay-up and could not convert, but Chyna Golden found Loliya Briggs and she converted a lay-up. At the half, the Panthers trailed 40-34.
In the first half, the Golden Eagles shot 48.6% to the Panthers 44.1%. The Panthers controlled the rebounds 22-19 but were defeated in the paint 28-22, in points off turnovers 8-4, second chance points 11-7 and bench points 12-4.
Kiesel led all scorers with nine and Logan, Briggs and Cora McManus all had seven points. Marquette was led by Katherine Plouffe and Sarina Simmons who each had eight.
The Panthers appeared much more confident in the second half and chipped away at the Marquette lead. The fans made their presence know as the defecit fell to just 64-63 with 3:50 to play when Marquel Davis made a fast break jump shot.
“The fast break jumper, I just shot it with confidence,” Davis said. “I think she [the defender] was expecting me to drive all the way and I knew if I was going to take this shot, I better nail it. I just shot it with confidence and from there we had the momentum and we continued to go at them.”
Four Panthers scored in double digits led by McManus who had 15 points. McManus was making her second straight start and made the most of it after a one point total against St. John’s in a lopsided loss in the last game.
“Starting or not, I’m going to play confidently,” McManus said. “It definitely is a boost to the confidence, but again whether I come off the bench or I start, when my name gets called I’m going to play hard.”
Knowing that they had a real opportunity to end the streak seemed to excite every Pitt player and coach that much more, however the team seemed to force things. Bad shot selections and rushed decisions allowed for Marquette to pull away and get the win.
Still it was not a complete loss for the Panthers as they put themselves in position to win the game and it was lack of execution down the stretch in addition to an 8-20 performance from the free throw line that did them in.
McManus was able to take things from the game.
“What I take from this game is we have to play hard every possession,” McManus said. “Make every possession count and every rebound count. We showed them and we cut it down and we were almost in it. Taking that almost in to a definite yes we’re in this game, let’s go. We need to transfer that over to these upcoming games.”
Despite the losing streak extending to 21 games, Davis notices changes for the better with the team.
“I’ve seen a lot of confidence,” Davis said. “We definitely go in to the game determined to win and determined to fight. We do have our lapses, but we’re still growing. At the same time, I think our confidence has built tremendously and we need to continue on building and need to finish games.”
The 9-8 [0-4] Panthers will next play at home Wednesday against second ranked Notre Dame. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m.