Panthers lose heartbreaker to Providence

The Pittsburgh Panthers women’s basketball team had several opportunities but in the end fell just short to Providence by an 85-83 score in double overtime extending their conference losing streak to 29 straight games.

The game was competitive throughout and in the end featured final second heroics, four foul outs and ultimately several Panthers crouching on the court in disappointment after the game.

“It’s unbelievable how resilient this team is and how this team just keeps on fighting,” Head Coach Agnus Berenato.” I’m so fortunate to be with this group of girls and the fact that they were able to do what they did. “

The first half was controlled by the Panthers. Brianna Kiesel scored 18 points from the field. Marquel Davis picked up the pieces starting at point guard for a second straight game since freshman Brittany Gordon was injured. Davis had 11 in the half. These two offset the team’s scoring leader Asia Logan who shot just 1-8 from the field. Ashlee Anderson provided a spark from the bench scoring six of her 10 points in the first half.

Logan’s one make in the half was important though as it would be a three point play to give her team a 9-6 lead. Kiesel then had a three point player on her own on the next posession. Davis made it a trifecta of three point plays with 2:45 left in the first half.

In addition, the team shot a perfect 11-11 from the foul line in the first half after a disappointing effort in their last game. The Panthers also had advantages in paint, points off turnvers and fast break points.

Providence came into the game with a worse record than the Panthers at 6-15 but they defeated Villanova in overtime earlier in Big East play. Their experience with winning the game would serve as an advantage as the game wore on. The Panther lead was as much as 11 points in the first half, however at the half it was down to 32-27.

In the second half, the Friars came out and with 17:10 left in the second half had their first lead of the game at 46-44. Soon after, the lead stretched to five points They would have three double digit scorers led by Brianna Edwards and her 25 points off the bench.

Things appeared bleak for the Panthers when the lead stretch to eight on an Edwards lay-up on a second chance opportunity. Pitt called a timeout to regroup and in a little over two minutes cut the lead to just 58-56. From there, the teams battled for momentum, with neither being able to pull away.

With a little over a minute left, Evi Iiskola made a layup to make the Friars lead three. Davis would split free throws forcing the Panthers to foul with under 30 seconds. Symone Roberts a 76.6% free throw shooter would miss a one in one keeping the lead at two.

The game was on the line and Davis called her own number blowing past Providence defenders for a lay-up to tie the game. Pitt then held defensively forcing a turnover as the buzzer sounded to force an overtime period.

Many Panthers were in foul trouble though and in the first overtime, Davis, Cora McManus and Anderson all fouled out of the game. The Panthers were now seven handed and brought out Kiesel, Loliya Briggs, Krista Pettepier, Chyna Golden and Abby Dowd for a majority of the overtime period.

The result was a six point Friars lead. While Roberts missed her free throws earlier, she was making them now and with 41 seconds the Panthers still trailed by six.

Kiesel, who finished with a game high 26 points made both of her free throws. Dowd then played the defense of her life forcing a traveling violation. The end result of the extra possession was an open two made by Briggs. When Edwards split free throws, the Panthers were down 77-74 and called timeout.

“It was huge,” Berenato said. I told Bri [Kiesel] either way it was going to be in her hands.”

Also huge was that Roberts fouled out and she had represented someone making shots from the foul line. She ended up with 23 points.

The faith in Kiesel was rewarded when she sank a three with 10 seconds left. Again the Panthers defended the final seconds and prepared for a second overtime.

“Coach B said that we needed a three,” Kiesel said. “I knew that the ball was going to be in my hands at the end of the game. I shot the ball confidently and it went in.”

In the second overtime, it was Providence that took the lead – a four point advantage. It did not last though as Pettepier made two free throws and Briggs connected on a three. Despite playing with four fouls, both Briggs and Kiesel played effectively. The Briggs was the Panthers first lead since the early stages of the second half.

Both teams would battle to a tie score of 83 with a minute left to play. Then, Edwards made a key lay-up. The Panthers tried to tie it, putting up various shots and they were unable to connect. Still, the rebounds would go their way and so would the bounves. The Panthers still trailed by two when Golden got a rebound and called a timeout.

Pittsburgh had two seconds left in regulation, but the Friars guarded the inbounds pass well. Dowd would ultimately get the pass in a posistion hard to shoot and her last ditch effort was in vein.

“I honestly thought we were going to score on them with two seconds to go,” Berenato said of her immediate thoughts when the final buzzer sounded. “You win like a champion and you lose like a champion. You shake hands and go over to your team. It’s a tough game and we’re right there and we need to continue having our confidence. This game will inspire the players to see how hard they work.”

The loss put the Panthers at 9-13 on the season and 0-9 in the Big East. They will again go for their first conference win in nearly two years on Saturday when they visit Louisville for a 2 p.m tip off. The Panthers next home game is Wednesday Feb. 20 against Cincinnati. The matchup represents the lone two teams yet to register a conference win. The game time is set at 7 p.m.

Of note: Asia Logan left the floor with 10:58 to play in the second half with a shoulder injury. Her shoulder has given her trouble as of late. She shot just 2-11 from the floor. On the play she got hurt, Logan tried to stay up, but could not fight the pain and went to the floor. “As soon as I went out there, I knew her shoulder was out,” Berenato said of Logan.

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