Pitt Panthers Lead Strong Women’s Basketball In Pittsburgh


Nov 20, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers head coach Suzie McConnell-Serio gestures from the sidelines against the Michigan Wolverines during the first half at the Petersen Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh has always been known for its spirited and passionate fans. With that in mind though, fans need to understand that women’s basketball is on the rise in the city and many major collegiate teams in the area are experiencing winning seasons. Below are just some of the successes thus far:

The Pitt Panthers women’s basketball team is now 10-3 and have won nine consecutive home contests, which is a program best. This record came after a 93-58 victory against Delaware State.

“We were very fortunate to have as many home games as we’ve had,” coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “We always talk about taking care of the games at home, getting wins and then be able to get some on the road. For the most part we’ve done that. It’s a good situation right now to be in and hopefully the confidence and the experience that we have gained will help us.”

More from Pittsburgh Sports

This season the Panthers have had two players in senior guard Brianna Kiesel and freshman forward Yacine Diop receive weekly recognition for their accomplishments this season.

Kiesel as expected leads Pitt in points per game with 17.8, however she has become much more of an all-round player this season, to where she does not necessarily have to score a large number of points to make a difference, although Kiesel set a career high with 30 points against St. Francis (PA) earlier this season. Duquesne Dukes coach Dan Burt refers to Kiesel as a future WNBA player and it is hard to argue with what she can bring onto the court, not to mention she is an 89.2 percent free throw shooter.

In the past Kiesel has had to do things herself, however she is joined in double figures by forward Monica Wignot (11.0 ppg) and forward Stasha Carey (10.4 ppg/9.2 rpg).

Wignot is a graduate student who played volleyball for Pitt. She had a year of eligibility and McConnell-Serio who had recruited Wignot for basketball read articles on her volleyball matches and offered her a full ride. Wignot did not think this was a possibility, but has made the most of the opportunity. Wignot did not play in the contest against Delaware due to a nose injury that will require playing with a mask but McConnell-Serio said she will be good to go against seventh ranked Louisville although the mask will take some getting used to.

Carey is one of three freshman along with Diop and Aysia Bugg who have been asked to play big roles this season and have found success. Carey tied a game high with 19 points in the victory against Delaware State and has become a consistent threat. She has been able to be reliable rebounding the basketball, and can surprise opponents with her range. Carey has made 16 three point shots and is shooting a team high .500 from deep.

“I feel more comfortable with playing at the collegiate level,” said Carey. “I think it has prepared us for going into conference play. It was a bit nerve wracking because obviously we were freshmen coming into an experienced program.”

Up next for the Panthers is the unenviable task of facing the seventh and ninth ranked teams back to back at home against Louisville and North Carolina.

McConnell-Serio said that the Panthers will be thrown into the fire right away however Bugg a freshman is looking forward to playing some formidable opponents.

“We’re used to seeing these teams play on TV and now we’re going to be playing them, so it’s going to be weird,” Bugg said.

Carey agreed, however knows the marching orders are clear and they are not to be in awe of an opponent.

“Come prepared, really prepared because of if you don’t, then you’re going to get smashed,” said Carey.

Duquesne meanwhile enters conference play with an 8-5 record. Duquesne has had to quickly get over losing its two starting post players in Wumi Agunbiade and Orsi Szecsi as its played eight of 13 games on the road thus far.

The Dukes are coming off an 82-75 victory at Lehigh Sunday – a game in which April Robinson had a career high 28 points against a team with a top 75 RPI.

In his two years as coach, Dan Burt has referred to Robinson as the team’s catalyst and she leads Duquesne with 15.7 points per game and a three point shooting percentage of 43.7. Also averaging double figure scoring per game is transfer guard Deva’Nyar Workman (11.7), Amadea Szamosi (10.9) and Jose-Ann Johnson (10.5).

Duquesne is Workman’s first NCAA DI experience and quickly fans were introduced to both her quickness and aggression. She mostly has been the spark plug off the bench, although she has started on three occasions. Szamosi was expected to grow with her play this season and has done that although Burt wants her to get stronger and I believe this will happen with time and experience. Szamosi is from Hungary and last season was trying to adjust to American basketball. Johnson was given several opportunities to succeed last season and showed glimpses of success. This season Johnson has been much more consistent in all aspects of her game.

The Dukes were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10 but there is reason to be optimistic. This team is balanced and does not have to depend on one player to dictate the offense as they did last season. It should be an interesting conference season for Duquesne.

California University (PA) was ranked 23rd in the most recent NCAA Division II top 25 poll but has since won another three games to boost its record to 10-1. It already is 7-0 in PSAC play, with conference matches against Lockhaven and Bloomsburg on tap for this weekend.

Coach Jess Strom has her team outscoring opponents by 17.1 points led by Emma Mahady’s 16.5 points per game. Miki Glenn also has played a big role with 15.5 points per game. Defensively, the Vulcans are averaging almost eight more steals a game. Overall, this is a promising team that could be one to keep an eye on all season.

Another local team that has fared well is NCAA Division III Carnegie Mellon University. CMU is 8-1 overall and has won its past five games. The Tartans were 12-13 last season however coach Jacquie Hullah is looking for her team to have a winning season after records of 9-16, 13-13 and 12-13 in her time with the team.

Currently, CMU is on a five game winning streak with an average margin of victory of 13.4 points. It will face Franciscan on the road Saturday. Sophomore forward/Center Lisa Murphy leads the team with 21.7 points per game and 10.2 rebounds per game. She is one of three that averages double figure points per game. The Tartans outscore opponents by 17 points a game. The remainder of the season should be interesting to see how CMU can finish. It is off to a fantastic and encouraging start.

I would be remiss not to mention the start the Point Park Pioneers are on. Picked to win the KIAC North Division prior to the season’s start, the team was ranked 22nd in the most recent NAIA Division II Poll and has an 11-1 overall record heading into conference play this weekend. Point Park will face Asbury and Alice Lloyd in consecutive days, both in Kentucky. Earlier this season, coach Tony Grenek passed Ed Meena for most wins in program history. Grenek is 88-20 in this, his fourth season at Point Park.

In the past, Point Park has relied on the defensive philosophy of holding opponents to 30 points or less in the first half and 60 points or less for the game, however with the new rules that were implemented last season, the Pioneers had to change its mindset and have come away a more efficient team offensively. It is eighth in the NAIA DII in scoring at 83.1 points per game but are also making smart decisions with the basketball as evidenced by a +7.9 turnover margin, good for sixth best in the NAIA DII.

Point Park was led by Sam Weir earlier this season, however a knee injury has her out indefinitely. In her place others have had to step up. Sophomore transfer Kelly Johnson has made a big impact averaging 14.9 points per game. Junior co-captain Ja’Nia McPhatter who recently was named KIAC Player of the Week is averaging 10.0 points per game and is seventh among NAIA DII players with a 48.6 percent three point shooting percentage. Grenek consistently uses his bench and as a result 11 players play at least 10 minutes per game.

Point Park’s road to a fourth consecutive berth to the NAIA DII National Tournament in Sioux City, IA will not be easy. The KIAC is deeper than ever and already two teams in the conference, Asbury and Indiana University Southeast have defeated teams ranked in the top 10, which only proves this. Now there is no such thing as an easy conference game, which means the Pioneers will be tested this year more than they have been in the past.