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Furious Rally Falls Short for Pitt, Drop 60-59 Decision to USF

Kyra Dunn had nine rebounds, a team-high, for the Panthers on Friday.

Kyra Dunn had nine rebounds, a team-high, for the Panthers on Friday.

March 2, 2012

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HARTFORD, Conn. – Pitt women’s basketball saw its furious rally fall short, dropping a 60-59 decision to USF in first round action at the 2011 BIG EAST Championship on Friday afternoon at the XL Center.

Freshman Brianna Kiesel, presented with her Big East All-Freshman team award prior to tip, led the Panthers with 24 points. The guard scored 15 points in the second half as Pitt overcame a 21-point deficit.

Sophomore Marquel Davis had 13 points and a career-high eight rebounds, while redshirt sophomore Leeza Burdgess posted 11 points and six boards. Off the bench, sophomore Kyra Dunn collected nine rebounds- a team-high.

The Bulls were paced by Inga Orekhova with 25 points, 21 of those in the first stanza.

“This is a very special group of student-athletes, to coach and to represent Pitt and the Big East,” said head coach Agnus Berenato. “It was an incredibly tough (season) because we did not win a game, but what this group taught me and my staff was amazing. If anyone had told me we would be 0-16 and down 21 and my team would fight like that to win, I might have doubted it. And that’s what happened. They believed in the adjustments we made at halftime and we played with a lot of heart."

Pitt (8-22) trailed 39-20 at the break and were down by 21 points to open the second period. The Panthers’ offense and defense ignited from that point. Pitt rattled off 15-straight points behind scores from four different players.

Kiesel opened the run with a beautiful jumper and Davis closed it with a layup in the paint five minutes later. Kiesel scored six and Burdgess had five over the span, which included an old-fashioned three-point play. Davis’ bucket cut the USF lead to six at 41-35 with 13:56 remaining.

After USF (17-14) drained two from the free throw lie, Pitt gained more ground with two-straight baskets over a 12-second span. The last – a steal from Davis, who found Kiesel for the layup – closed the gap to 43-39.

The Bulls moved ahead by nine at 52-43 on a three-point from Andrell Smith with 9:47 to go.

Pitt reeled off an 8-1 run to pull to two at 55-53 at the 5:53 mark. Kiesel, once again, ignited the team as the guard commenced the run with a three-point play. Burdgess added a 15-footer and Davis drained Pitt’s second 3-pointer of the game.

Neither team scored until the 2:19 mark when a layup by Dunn tied the game at 55-55. Burdgess put her team ahead on Pitt’s next trip down the court as the Panthers gained their first advantage at 57-55 with 1:50 left.

USF called its last timeout and would score coming out of it when Jasmine Wynn converted a layup and the free throw that followed to knot the game at 57-57.

With 53.1 seconds, Kiesel calmly drained a jumper to put Pitt back ahead, 59-57. USF responded 11 seconds later with a 3-pointer, its ninth of the game, to make it 60-59.

The Panthers had two opportunities in the final 40 seconds. Kiesel’s shot was off as the ball bounced off the front of the rim. Players dove for the ball, but Pitt could not get a timeout called as instead a jump ball was signaled with 15.5 seconds remaining and the possession arrow went to USF.

With 14.2 seconds left, the Panthers fouled Shaleth Stringfield who missed the front end of the one-and-one. Pitt had one last chance as the ball never left Kiesel’s hand. Her eight-footer with 1.6 seconds bounced in and around the rim before falling out as USF escaped with the win.

“Brianna Kiesel is phenomenal (and) she did an amazing job tonight” Berenato added on her point guard. “She takes the team on her shoulders. If we were that same situation tomorrow, I would call the exact same set. I thought it was in, (it) went in and out.”

The Panthers shot 56.3 percent in the second half (18-of-32), compiling a 43.9 percent field goal percentage in the game. Pitt out-rebounded USF, 44-38. The Panthers committed 16 turnovers, but turned the ball over just four times int eh second half.

Kiesel’s 24 points marked the first year player’s seventh game with 20 or more points this season.