PITTSBURGH – Down 18 points to 21st-ranked Florida State, it would have been easy to give up, but the Pitt women’s basketball team continued to fight.
The Panthers cut the lead to six but were unsuccessful in their comeback, falling 78-69 on Thursday night at Petersen Events Center.
Florida State had 24 second-chance points and scored 26 points off 25 Pitt turnovers.
“I’m obviously disappointed that we came away empty-handed, but we need to take better care of the basketball and make better decisions,” Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “Despite that, I thought our players competed and never quit. If we can compete like that against the No. 21 team in the country, I’ll take that effort every day.”
Natasha Howard scored 27 points for Florida State before fouling out. She was a force in the post and Pitt had no answer for her. Ivey Slaughter added 11 points and 13 rebounds.
Brianna Kiesel led Pitt with 20 points while Loliya Briggs added 15. Asia Logan had a 14-point and nine-rebound effort.
“We have come so far,” Kiesel said. “I am so excited for the team we have, and although we lost, we played really well and we came through. We never faltered and we stayed together as a team. We just fought. We had that fight and that is something we have been missing for the last couple of years.”
Florida State opened the game by scoring the first five points of the game before Pitt started to adjust. The teams battled back and forth and were five points apart with 7:46 to play in the first half. Brittany Brown hit two shots for the Seminoles that put the team up by eight and then nine. This set the tempo for Florida State and although the Panthers attempted to chip away, the Seminoles led 39-28 at the half.
Pitt started the second half with six turnovers in as many possessions. Florida State responded by opening the lead to 45-28 and a free throw later the Panthers were down 18 points.
Instead of panicking, Pitt played within themselves and started to narrow the lead down. The Seminoles responded, but down 17, the Panthers went on a 9-0 run which ended with a Kiesel steal and score to make the game 62-54.
“I didn’t play well in the first half and I had a lot of turnovers too, I had eight of those,” Kiesel said. “I came out more aggressive in the second half after I was tentative in the first. They had a 2-3 zone and when outside shots are falling, it helps a little bit.”
The Panthers had opportunities to further cut the lead, however after a turnover and two 3-point shots went in and out, the teams traded free throws.
Up six, Howard made a jumper and was fouled. This would be the turning point of the contest as she completed a three point play, making the lead nine with 1:12 left to play. Logan would respond with a two, however the Seminoles quickly made two free throws to make the lead 10 with 32 seconds to play.
The Panthers were outscored in the paint (40-32), points off turnovers (26-14), second-chance points (24-10) and made 10 fewer foul shots than Florida State.
Pitt will take to the road Sunday against Virginia for a 2 p.m. tipoff.
Despite falling short in this game, Kiesel is very proud of her teammates and confident in her team.
“We came up a little short but I would take my team over any team in the ACC,” Kiesel said.