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Scrappy Panthers fight but FSU breaks free late

No. 16 Florida State extends ACC win streak to four straight as Pittsburgh slides to six straight losses

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Pittsburgh, PA -- The No. 16 Florida State Seminoles extended their ACC win streak to four straight and pushed to 3-0 all-time against the University of Pittsburgh as the Panthers slid to six straight losses. The Seminoles took control early and held the Panthers off to pace a 66-55 victory on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh.

"It's tough for all of us right now, because we're not seeing what we're doing in practice and the improvements we've seen as a team transfer to the win-loss column right now -- with us finding a way to win, but right now we're just trying to keep everyone's confidence high," University of Pittsburgh coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "We come back to work and know that we have to get better in a lot of areas.

"Every time we've stepped on the floor so far we're playing against one of the top teams in our conference We have to be able to see what we can do against teams that are in our situation — teams in the middle of our conference. Now we're at the bottom without a win, so moving forward we just have to keep our heads high. We're a young team, and we have to learn from these types of situations."

The Panthers (8-10, 0-5) brought the score back within striking distance as the first quarter closed on a Cassidy Walsh 3-pointer. Destinie Gibbs found Walsh in transition as the clock wound down, leaving the Seminoles short of a response and bringing the score within five points. After leading by as many as nine Florida State (14-4, 4-1) only carried a 15-10 advantage after the first 10 minutes.

Although they let the Panthers back in the game at the end of the first, Florida State regained control quickly in the second period. The Seminoles jumped out on a 13-3 run over the first five minutes that finally came to an end as 4:53 as Brenna Wise hit a jumper.

The remainder of the quarter consisted of an 8-1 Florida State run, which put the Seminoles ahead by as many as 22 points, and a 9-0 Pitt run over the final two and a half minutes to bring the score to 38-25 at the intermission.

The Seminoles shot 45 percent (17-38) from the field, while holding the Panthers to 30 percent (9-of-30) in the first half. They also controlled the boards, outrebounding Pitt 25-19, and won the turnover battle with three less lost possessions. Additionally, none of the Panthers reached double figures by halftime as both Leticia Romero (13 points), and Shakayla Thomas (10 points) were very productive over the first 20 minutes off Florida State.

FSU continued its dominance into the third period, outscoring Pitt 21-11. The Seminoles traded baskets with the Panthers early as Fred Potvin kept Pitt alive with a pair of 3-pointers.

However, with just under four minutes remaining FSU paced a 7-0 run to take a 57-34 lead. Yacine Diop sunk a jumper for Pitt and Kai James closed the period on a layup for the Seminoles to give them a 59-36 lead into the final period.

The Panthers finally generated the offense it lacked in the first three-quarters over the opening three minutes of the fourth quarter as they jumped ahead on a 9-0 run to bring the score to 59-45. Aysia Bugg started production with a layup and a 3-pointer to set the tone. Stasha Carey then capitalized on an offensive rebound, and Walsh closed with a layup. As a team, Pitt knocked down four of its last five shot attempts during the stretch.

"I'm very proud we outscored Florida State 19-7 in the fourth quarter," McConnell-Serio said. "When you think about playing against a team like that that has the ability to wear you down as the game goes on we were starting to pick it up in the fourth quarter. Good things are happening. We're starting to see a lot of good things, especially when you look at shortening your bench, and you get contributions from Cassidy Walsh, Fred Potvin and Destinie Gibbs.

"I thought they played great minutes and did a lot of good things coming off our bench. Moving forward, you look for those players possibly extending their minutes and getting a little more comfortable on the floor."

After nearly three scoreless minutes Wise extended Pitt's run to 12-0, making a layup and then going 1-for-2 from the foul line on the next possession.

Florida State finally managed to score with 3:35 on the clock as Romero hit a jumper, bringing her total to a game-high 18 points.

Pitt threatened in the final minute, utilizing a quick foul technique on defense and hitting back-to-back 3-pointers by Wise and Walsh. However, the Seminoles quieted Pitt's late surge and closed the game with a 66-55 victory.

While the Panthers managed to turn things around in the fourth quarter, over the course of the game they were outrebounded 47-38, shot 40 percent from the free throw line, 34 percent on field goals and committed 20 turnovers to allow FSU 25 points off turnovers.

"They ended up going a little bit more man-to-man (in the fourth quarter), which allowed us to penetrate coming off screens,"  McConnell-Serio said. "I thought we had better ball movement. Finding our shooters we were able to knock down some shots. I thought we had some good looks we didn't hit early.

"Had we hit them it could have cut into their lead a little bit more to change the complexion of the game. When you look at the mistakes of a young team you look at free throw shooting being 6-of-15 and then them having 25 points off our 20 turnovers. You change that, and it's an entirely different game."