March 4, 2006
HARTFORD, Conn. -
For the first time in a decade, the Pitt women's basketball team isn't making a quick trip home after one game in the Big East Championship tournament. The Panthers downed Cincinnati, 77-62, on Saturday evening, to advance to the quarterfinals vs. No. 15 DePaul on Sunday night.
The Panthers (19-9, 9-7 Big East) shot 61.2 percent from the floor - the second-best shooting performance by a team in the 24-year history of the tournament, and took another step in securing a berth in the NCAA Championship tournament in a few weeks.
Pitt, the No. 6 seed in the Big East Championship, made 16 of 24 first-half shots, but didn't let up in the second half by making 14 of 25 to finish 30-of-49 in the game. The win ended a seven-game losing streak in the tournament, dating back to 1996, and gave the Panthers 19 victories in a season for just the fifth time in school history.
Four Panthers scored in double figures, led by sophomore center Marcedes Walker (Philadelphia, Pa./University City) and junior guard Mallorie Winn (San Diego, Calif./Bishop's/Georgia Tech) with 21 points apiece. Walker made 9-fo-11 shots from the field, added seven rebounds, an assist, two blocks and a steal as the Panthers built an early 25-10 lead and never looked back. Winn was 7-of-12 from the field with three three-pointers, two rebounds, a block, two steals and six assists.
Freshman Shavonte Zellous (Orlando, Fla./Jones) had her best effort of the season with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, six rebounds and three assists while playing 33 minutes. Junior Danielle Taylor (Cleveland, Ohio/Villa Angela-St. Joseph) also made it into double figures for the second straight game with a season-best-tying 10 points and three rebounds.
Cincinnati (17-11, 7-9 Big East) got a game-high 22 points from Shelly Bellman, who made six three-pointers to keep the Bearcats within striking distance. Michelle Jones and Treasure Humphries added 13 points apiece as the Panthers improved to 2-0 vs. Cincinnati this season after a 64-63 win at the Fifth Third Arena last month.
The teams traded early baskets as Walker scored the first eight points of the game for the Panthers. Cincinnati took its final lead of the game on a three-pointer by Bellman at the 16:26 mark to make it an 8-6 contest in favor of the Bearcats. Over the next six minutes, Pitt went on a 19-2 run to take its biggest lead at 15 points.
Cincinnati got as close as six points at 29-23 with 3:52 remaining in the first frame on a pair of free throws by Humphries but Pitt closed the half out on an 8-4 run to take a 37-27 halftime advantage. Bellman kept the Bearcats in it in the second half scoring nine consecutive points at one point to close the gap to four at 42-38 put the Panthers wouldn't be denied and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.
Pitt's match-up against DePaul on Sunday evening will be televised on CSTV. The Blue Demons (24-5, 11-5 Big East) are the No. 3 seed, and defeated the Panthers, 81-75, back on Jan. 3 in a nationally televised game on CSTV.
NOTES: Pitt is now 10-20 in the Big East Championship, but sports a 6-5 record as the higher seed...the Panthers held the Bearcats to just 38.6 percent shooting (22-of-57) for the evening...Walker had seven rebounds to give her 504 for her career, tying her for 13th on the Panthers' all-time list and making her just the 14th Pitt player to record 500 or more rebounds...Walker also moved into 19th place on Pitt's all-time scoring list with 837 points, moving past Stephanie Petho (1992-96, 832).