Junior point guard Brianna Kiesel got off to a slow start during Sunday’s game against Old Dominion. And since Kiesel is Pitt women’s basketball’s sanctioned floor general, so did the Panthers.
She picked up two fouls in the first eight minutes, finished the half with just three points and her anemic performance seemed to rub off on her teammates. By the time the final buzzer sounded, though, the tide had turned. Kiesel, a junior, was entrenched in Pitt women’s basketball history, and the Panthers walked away winners.
Making her 70th consecutive start, Kiesel scored 20 points to eclipse 1,000 in her Pitt career and helped the Panthers erase a second-half deficit to win, 63-49, Sunday afternoon against Old Dominion at the Petersen Events Center.
“[Reaching the milestone] is not really as big an accomplishment as the win is,” Kiesel said. “We really needed this win and I wouldn’t be able to score if my teammates didn’t work together.”
Pitt (6-4) shot just 36 percent in the first half, going 2 for 10 from the 3-point line and missing both of its free throws. Kiesel was part of the mess, making just 1 of 6 shots from the floor with three turnovers.
“She may not have been having a good, strong first half but she came out and played her behind off in the second half, and we look to that,” sophomore guard Loliya Briggs said.
Yet, Kiesel approached the second half with a chip on her shoulder, especially after seeing starting center Bubbles Anderson collapse to the floor with an unspecified right knee injury early in the second half.
Anderson, a redshirt freshman and the tallest women’s player in NCAA Division I at 6-foot-11, sustained the injury while lunging for a defensive rebound. After rolling on the floor, wincing in obvious pain for a couple minutes, Anderson hobbled off the court with help from teammates and was taken into the locker room, where her knee was treated. She returned to the bench on crutches with ice wrapped around her knee.
Pitt coach Suzie McConnell-Serio was not able to provide an extensive update on the injury, but said Anderson was scheduled to receive an MRI on her right knee Sunday night.
Moments after Anderson was removed, Kiesel took charge, launching Pitt to a 12-2 run. She scored six consecutive points in this span, including her 1,000th after cutting through the defense and finishing with a layup.
Kiesel traveled baseline to baseline on the play, receiving an inbounds pass from under Old Dominion’s hoop, turning up the court only to find the Lady Monarchs in a press. She weaved her way through two defenders at halfcourt, shifted her body into the key and banked home a right-handed layup to put the Panthers up, 35-33.
The layup placed Kiesel in an elite club, making her the 18th player in Pitt women’s basketball history to reach the 1,000-point milestone.
It also gave Pitt its first lead of the afternoon.
The run sparked Kiesel’s teammates. As a whole, they shot 52 percent in the second half, and made 11 of 17 free throw attempts. Briggs wound up with 11 points and induced four charge calls on the defensive end, while Asia Logan chipped in with 13 points, including nine in the second half.
“Bri never puts her head down and even if she does, it’s never for too long, it’s just for a second,” Briggs said.
And the stat sheet proved a Kiesel takeover. She posted 17 points and seven rebounds in the final 20 minutes.
“It was nice to see her smile when she [met the milestone], it was nice to see,” McConnell-Serio said. “I think it kind of loosened things up. I think she knew it was coming and that could have added to her playing tight in the first half. I think once it happened, she was ready to go.”
Kiesel denied that the 1000-point mark had her overly-anxious leading up to the game and in the first half.
“It was finals week, so I was up and anxious about my finals. So that was on my mind a lot … It’s a relief now that I have it,” Kiesel said, beaming a smile. “I didn’t want to think about it too much because then you get anxious, but I’m glad I got it. It’s a big turning stone for myself as well as the team.”
Kiesel finished the afternoon with 1,015 career points, leaving her still nearly 1,300 points from the top career mark at Pitt. Lorri Johnson, who played from 1987-91 and tallied 2,312 career points, is the all-time leading scorer for the Pitt women’s basketball team.
\Although she may never break Johnson’s scoring record, Kiesel isn’t bothered.
“I’m very excited,” she said, visibly backing her claim. “We got the win, I got 1,000 points. It was just a good day.”