Even with a handful of freshmen and only one returning starter, Pitt women’s coach Suzie McConnell-Serio still had high expectations of her team heading into the season opener against Princeton on Friday.
Those expectations were not even close to being met.
The Panthers led by a point at the break but missed their first 11 shots of the second half watched the Tigers go on a 16-0 run and the offense never recovered enough to dig out of the hole in a 59-43 loss at Petersen Events Center.
“Honestly, I don’t think I could be more disappointed with our performance,” McConnell-Serio said. “From an offensive perspective, this performance was not indicative of what I’ve seen from these players as individuals and through practices, and the scrimmage and the exhibition game. Just trying to do too much, not playing within themselves, not playing as a team. We always talk about how important team chemistry is, and I didn’t see a lot of that on the floor today.”
Senior point guard Brianna Kiesel scored nine of her team-high 14 points in the final eight minutes to spark the Panthers, who cut their deficit from 20 points with 10:39 to play to just eight with 4:48 remaining.
Freshman forward Yacine Diop, a Seton-La Salle product, grabbed the rebound from Kiesel’s missed free throw and scored to make it 47-39, but Princeton answered with a layup. The Tigers then went to the line for another six points on four Panthers fouls.
Pitt, which shot 36.9 percent from the floor last season, finished 16 of 63 (25.4 percent). Kiesel was the only player in double figures. Freshman forward Stasha Carey contributed nine points and 11 rebounds in her Division I debut.
Kiesel is the lone returning starter for Pitt, which went 11-20 last season. Diop and Carey are true freshmen, sophomore guard Fred Potvin played a minimal role last season and guard Monica Wignot, a graduate student, spent the past four years playing volleyball for the Panthers.
However, McConnell-Serio wasn’t using inexperience as an excuse.
Not after Pitt overcame an early 12-3 deficit to take a 20-19 lead at intermission on Kiesel’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
The inability to execute and knock down shots means the Panthers may have to try pressing Niagara on Monday.
“We did a better job of being able to put points on the board after we picked up the defensive pressure,” McConnell-Serio said. “Being shorthanded, you don’t know if we can handle that tempo for 40 minutes, but it’s obviously something we have to consider.”