Late mistakes foil Panthers' comeback


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Pitt started hot and rallied late, but in the end the game against Syracuse Sunday ended like so many have the past few years -- with a loss.

The Panthers lost to Syracuse, 58-47, at Petersen Events Center. Despite taking a team that went to the NCAA tournament last year down to the final minutes, coach Suzie McConnell-Serio didn't offer any excuses.

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

"We're an underdog in every game. We go out and there's no pressure."

Point guard Brianna Kiesel scored 12 points and played all 40 minutes after leaving early from the Panthers' 109-66 loss to Notre Dame Thursday with a knee injury. Kiesel, Pitt's leading scorer at 18.2 points per game shot just 3 for 16 from the field.

The Panthers were ultimately done in by a woeful offensive performance in the first half. After jumping out to an 11-5 lead on the Orange, Pitt went ice-cold from the field.

Pitt went 6:36 without a field goal as Syracuse ripped off a 19-2 run that gave the Orange a 24-13 lead.

"I can't really say what happened," Pitt guard Ashlee Anderson said. "We kind of stopped getting our shots and we were relying on our 3s because that's what got us up early."

Play evened out over the rest of the first half, and the Panthers used a 9-0 spurt at the beginning of the second to get back in the game. They battled and eventually closed the gap to 46-43 with 3:10 left.

That was the closest they came, though, as a couple of key turnovers and missed shots let the Orange close out the win.

"Just two bad decisions late in the game," McConnell-Serio said. "Those are situations that you'd love to have back and we have to win down the stretch."

For a team that ended a two-year conference losing streak earlier this month, the Panthers are still learning how to win close games. McConnell-Serio said that includes everything from decision-making to physical conditioning.

"I know we need to get in better shape to be able to compete with these teams, especially late in the game," she said.

McConnell-Serio did save her biggest praise after the game for Pitt's defensive effort. The Orange averaged 76.4 points coming into Sunday, but Pitt allowed just 58.

That won't turn a loss into a win, but it's an encouraging sign that the Panthers might be starting to develop an identity in McConnell-Serio's first year.

"Our players took some responsibility and ownership of trying to control them [defensively]," McConnell-Serio said.

"We're starting to compete, but we're not getting over that hump of finding a way to win."

Sam Werner: and Twitter @SWernerPG.

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