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Cold shooting at start costs Pitt women against Syracuse

| Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, 6:45 p.m.

Defense wasn't an issue for the Pitt women against Syracuse, but the first-half offense was, and it resulted in a 58-47 loss Sunday at Petersen Events Center.

The Panthers held the Orange to almost 20 points below their season average of 77.5 points, but after taking an early 11-5 lead, Pitt (9-10, 1-4 ACC) went on an extended scoreless streak that put them in a 30-18 deficit at halftime.

Pitt spent the entire second half trying to catch up. The Panthers got within three points with just more than three minutes remaining, but a foul and a turnover led to four points for Syracuse (13-5, 2-3), and Pitt got no closer than six the rest of the way.

“We have to find ways to win down the stretch,” coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. “We're starting to compete, but we're not finding ways to get over that hump of finding a way to win down the stretch.”

Junior point guard Brianna Kiesel played all 40 minutes after missing two days of practice resting a sore knee. She was injured Thursday against Notre Dame but managed to score 12 points and grab five rebounds. Ashlee Anderson, who led the team with 13 points, was the only other Pitt player to score in double figures.

“Defensively, I felt we did a good job in the game, but we couldn't make shots when we needed,” Anderson said.

Four players scored in double digits for Syracuse, led by Brittney Sykes with 15 points. Taylor Ford and Brianna Day each had a double-double, and the Orange won for just the second time in their past six games.

Syracuse's zone defense, late-game fatigue and Kiesel playing at less than 100 percent were factors in the final score, but the evaporation of the offense in the first half demanded the need for second-half heroics that never materialized.

From the time Anderson drained a 3-pointer with 16:21 left in the first half until she made a jump shot with 6:25 remaining, the Panthers scored just two points — on free throws by Kiesel. Pitt was 0 of 13 from the field, including 0 of 6 from beyond the arc, and turned over the ball seven times during the stretch.

Pitt shot 16 percent (4 for 25) in the first half, a season-low.

“I never look for moral victories,” McConnell-Serio said. “This is a game we felt, being at home, that we could compete if we played well and shot the ball well against that zone and that we could win.

“I think we're getting better, and we're seeing signs of competing and even though we weren't hitting shots, we were getting good looks in the first half. We just weren't knocking down shots. That's one thing I can't control, is putting the ball in the hoop for them.”

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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