Panthers are “Underdogs” no more
By: Andrew Stern
All it takes is one.
One win to change the face and attitude of the program.
That win for Pitt, came Thursday evening against the University of North Carolina.
When Pitt beat Michigan right before Thanksgiving, it garnered a bit of attention.
Two weeks later, the Panthers built momentum, when they went to Ohio State and knocked off a very solid Buckeyes squad.
Next statement win? A 26-point victory over undefeated (at the time) Youngstown State at the Peterson Events Center.
Despite a tough loss across town to Duquesne, the Panthers continued to take care of business, defeating Delaware State and St. Francis (Pa.) by a combined 73 points.
And while wins by 40 points, and road wins against Ohio State garner attention, the Panthers continued to seek “the” victory.
Enter Louisville. The Panthers entered the game as huge underdogs. As the game continued to progress, the Panthers looked more and more like the favorite.
In the end, Pitt fell just short on Sunday afternoon against the Cardinals, despite holding a double-digit advantage and leading for nearly two thirds of the contest.
The loss stung for the Panthers, as it was the first conference game of the year, and a chance to make a huge statement.
Fast forward to last night.
The opponent, #6/#8 ranked UNC, a team that was 14-1, had beaten four top 25 teams this year including a Stanford team that ended Connecticut 47-game winning streak.
To say Pitt was a large underdog in this game would have been an understatement.
However, as the game continued to progress, it was Pitt that looked like the 6th ranked squad, not Carolina.
As the game wore on, Pitt continued to open larger leads. First it was 10 points at the half. Then it was 15, next came 20, before finally leading by 27 points with 50 seconds left.
“As a coach you usually have expectations going into a season, but with knowing the way the ACC is , you talk about closing the gap with the top teams we got blown out against last year, and giving yourself a chance to win against the middle teams and the bottom teams,” McConnell-Serio said.
“I didn’t know what their reaction was going to be when we just knocked off the number eight team in the country, and from what I saw the reaction was they expected to win this game. There wasn’t a big celebration, in the lockeroom there was excitement, but on the court there wasn’t,” McConnell-Serio said.
This isn’t the same old Panthers squad. This Panther team has a swagger about it, and knows they can truly compete with any team in the ACC.
“I feel like a lot of people know Pitt women’s basketball as the old Pitt women’s basketball, so I think it’s exciting that people see us as the underdog all the time. We can come in and not have any pressure on us, and just play basketball,” Wignot said.
Behind the 15th ranked recruiting class, Monica Wignot — a four year volleyball player whom McConnell-Serio tried to recruit to Duquesne when she was the head coach of the program — and senior star Brianna Kiesel, this team is looking to do something special, and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
Despite how the season may end, whether it is in the ACC Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, these Panthers are underdogs no more.