March 24, 2006
PITTSBURGH - Pitt senior Cheron Taylor has never experienced a season like this, and now only one other set of Pitt teammates can say they have as the Panthers' women's basketball team won its 22nd game of the year on Friday evening at the Fitzgerald Field House.
The Panthers (22-10) defeated visiting Virginia (20-12) by a count of 68-58 in the WNIT quarterfinals to tie the school record for most wins in a season. In the process, Pitt advanced to take on Big East rival Marquette (21-10) in the WNIT semifinals at the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee on Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST.
Taylor (Detroit, Mich./Martin Luther King) was all smiles after the Panthers won their third game in the postseason tournament.
"I just want to keep this thing going," Taylor said. "I'm not ready to finish playing and I know my teammates feel the same way."
The Cavaliers battled shooting woes throughout the evening and finished with just a 29 percent clip (20-of-69 from the field). Pitt was able to shoot 42.3 percent, overcoming 19 turnovers to get the victory and earn a rematch with the Golden Eagles. Marquette topped Pitt, 71-62, on Jan. 18 in Milwaukee.
Both teams had trouble at the start finding the net as Virginia had its only lead at 3-2 with 3:10 expired in the first half. A lay-up by Marcedes Walker (Philadelphia, Pa./University City) with 16:23 to go in the first half sparked a 13-0 run by the Panthers over the next five-plus minutes. Walker had eight of her 16 points during the run, while Mallorie Winn (San Diego, Calif./Bishop's/Georgia Tech) chipped in four of her game-high 20 points.
Virginia countered with a 7-0 run of its own to cut the lead to five at 15-10 and eventually got to within two at 21-19 on two free throws by Takisha Granberry. Winn came back, however, with a three-pointer and a lay-up over the final three minutes as Pitt took a 28-19 lead into the break.
A 10-5 run to open the second half by the Panthers pushed the advantage to 14 points at 38-24 with 13:44 remaining but another 10-2 run by the Cavaliers closed that gap to six. Walker was too much inside, making key baskets and finding Taylor for two easy lay-ups to extend the lead once again. Virginia was as close as three points at 57-54 with 2:11 remaining but Pitt scored 11 of the final 15 points, including nine free throws, for the victory.
Winn was 6-of-12 from the field and made 7-of-8 free throws for her second straight 20-point effort, while adding seven rebounds and six assists in 38 minutes of action. Walker made 7-of-11 shots from the field and finished with 16 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, playing down the stretch with four fouls. Guard Shavonte Zellous (Orlando, Fla./Jones) was also in double figures for the Panthers with 11 points and eight rebounds with three blocks defensively.
Virginia got a double-double from Siedah Williams with 13 points and 11 rebounds before she fouled out, while Sharnee Zoll tallied 11 points and had six assists. Virginia had won the previous two meetings against the Panthers, but Pitt will now have a chance to win its school-record 23rd game and play for a postseason championship for the first time in the 32-year history of the program.
NOTES: Pitt made 12 of its 26 second-half shots and made 16-of-23 second-half free throws...the Panthers had a 49-36 advantage on the boards with seven different Pitt players recording at least four rebounds...the Pitt-Marquette semifinal guarantees that the Big East will have a WNIT finalist for the second consecutive year.
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