A Duquesne loss in the women's edition of the City Game usually would leave Suzie McConnell-Serio very upset with the outcome. This time, she was just fine with a Pitt victory.
In the first game against her former team, McConnell-Serio's Panthers (8-6) took down the Dukes (8-5), 67-57, Sunday at Petersen Events Center, ending Duquesne's four-game winning streak in the series.
"Our players kept their composure and stayed together," McConnell-Serio said. "I'm very proud of our team and the effort we showed today and the poise that we finished the game with."
Pitt junior guard Brianna Kiesel was honored before the game for becoming the 18th player in program history to score more than 1,000 points in her career. In a game that saw both teams struggle to score, it was Pitt's star who kept the Panthers in it.
Kiesel scored 16 of her team's 26 first-half points. She finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists. Her penetration in the halfcourt and ability to get easy baskets in transition put constant pressure on the Dukes defensively.
"Kiesel is a kid who has next-level quickness and explosiveness," Duquesne coach Dan Burt said. "We tried to defend her several different ways. ... She caused us a lot of problems."
"She is unbelievable. She managed the game so well," McConnell-Serio said. "Once she started hitting shots, I think everybody's shoulders were able to relax a little bit."
A Kiesel layup as time expired in the first half gave Pitt a 26-20 lead heading into the locker room. It also gave the Panthers a boost in momentum that would extend into the second half. She felt this game meant even more with McConnell-Serio on the Pitt sideline.
"Coach beat us twice when she was at Duquesne and now she came to us and we beat them," Kiesel said. "It shows that [winning] factor was Coach McConnell. It was definitely a big win for us."
Both teams struggled offensively early on. The Panthers shot 10 of 33 from the field in the first half, only slightly better than the Dukes, who were 7 of 28.
Duquesne failed to make any of its seven first-half 3-point attempts. The Dukes also could not take advantage of the free-throw line, going 6 of 12 in the first half and 18 of 29 overall.
"I felt that we were completely outplayed. You can say that we were outcoached at times," Burt said. "I'm very disappointed with the whole day."
Burt resorted to full-court and half-court zone pressure to stymie the Panthers, creating turnovers and getting the Dukes back in the game. Adding to the comeback was the absence of Kiesel, who was out with foul trouble throughout the second half.
Pitt senior guard Marquel Davis proved to be the difference, scoring all of her 16 points in the second half. She was able to get to the basket consistently and finish in traffic, spurring her team offensively.
"I realized I had taken one shot [in the first half] and it was a jumper," Davis said. "My mindset going into the second half was just attack and you'll either have the layup or one of your teammates open for a shot."
Sophomore guard April Robinson led Duquesne with 16 points. Senior forward Wumi Agunbiade added 14 points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Both teams now move to conference play, with the Panthers beginning their inaugural season in the Atlantic Coast Conference against Florida State Thursday at Petersen Events Center.
The Dukes will play St. Bonaventure Wednesday at Palumbo Center to kick off their Atlantic 10 schedule.
"It's a great win. Going into the ACC, we want to try to build off this," McConnell-Serio said. "I'm just excited about the challenge that lies ahead and to see how far we've come to be able to compete at this level."
Jordan Greer: email@example.com. First Published December 29, 2013 8:14 PM