Pitt women conclude home schedule with loss to N.C. State

| Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

Any team in the midst of rebuilding has to take its lumps, and the Pitt women have taken plenty this season.

Thursday night's 79-68 loss to No. 13 N.C. State won't go down as one in their minds, however, despite the final score.

Trailing by 24 points early in the second half, coach Suzie McConnell-Serio turned to a younger lineup off the bench in the second half and something clicked.

The Panthers cut N.C. State's lead to 10 when freshman guard Chelsea Welch hit a 3-pointer with three minutes remaining. Krystal Barrett missed a 3-point attempt for the Wolfpack before Pitt freshman Frederique Potvin missed a pair herself, but junior Cora McManus came up with the rebound both times and the second time put the ball in to make it 71-63.

Pitt (11-18, 3-12 ACC) got within seven points twice in the final minute and a half of the game, but N.C. State (24-5, 11-4) went 4 of 6 from the foul line and held on for the win. Still, McConnell-Serio said, she had plenty to be proud of.

“It was fun to coach because the effort was there, the energy was there, they fought hard and never quit,” she said. “The effort this team gave in the second half is how we wanted to play all year. We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole against a very talented N.C. State team.”

Welch led Pitt with 16 points, 11 of which came in the second half, followed by junior Brianna Kiesel with 13 points and sophomore Brittany Gordon with 12, 10 in the second half.

For Gordon, who came into the game averaging 2.4 points per game, the performance came as a relief after what she called a frustrating season.

“I haven't had the season I wanted as far as helping my team,” she said. “(On Thursday) things just came to me. It feels a little better, because I always told myself the next game, get it the next game. We tried to play for our seniors and give it everything we had.”

Senior Asia Logan fouled out with six points and four rebounds, Ashlee Anderson had three points and Marquel Davis played just seven minutes and was scoreless. It was their last game at Petersen Events Center.

N.C. State senior Markeisha Gatling, a 6-foot-5 center, led all scorers and fouled out with 20 points and seven rebounds.

Pitt stayed with N.C. State in the early going. Its 7-of-14 shooting in the first 10 minutes was a vast improvement over the 11-of-54 performance at Syracuse on Sunday and the Panthers even took a 15-13 lead with 13 minutes to play in the half.

But after falling behind, the Wolfpack went on a 13-2 run over the next five minutes to pull ahead by nine. The visitors built an advantage in second-chance points and points in the paint as the Panthers' scoring touch cooled and Pitt went to the break trailing, 39-27.

Pitt closes the season on Sunday at Miami before heading to Greensboro, N.C., for the ACC Tournament.

“Every night we step on the floor, we're playing against a great team in this conference,” McConnell-Serio said. “Our goal is to close the gap. If we can have that performance every single night, we'll close the gap in the future.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at kprice@tribweb.com or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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