William and Mary fell to Pittsburgh in a heartbreaking early-season contest Sunday in Pittsburgh, Pa., 76-74. The Tribe led for most of the second-half in a very tight contest throughout, but the Panthers snatched the victory away from the Tribe at the very last moment after hitting two free throws to give them the decisive advantage with just one second left on the game clock.
Even though the Tribe was handed its second loss of the season, coming after an opening game defeat to East Carolina in Williamsburg, it showed several heartening signs of potential success as they fought a Big East power to a virtual standstill. Senior forward Emily Correal registered her second-straight double-double with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while senior sharpshooter Janine Aldridge knocked in five three-pointers on just eight attempts. Correal and Aldridge have synthesized into a deadly inside-outside attack for the Tribe.
The Tribe defense looked fierce on the road in Pittsburgh, limiting the Panthers to a tawdry 36 percent from the field including 2-19 from beyond the arc. Aldridge wreaked havoc on Pitt’s backcourt, picking off five steals on the day. However, the Tribe defense lost its poise when it couldn’t afford to by fouling Pitt in the last second.
Eager to prove that it belonged in the contest, the College started off red-hot with a 17-6 lead six minutes into the first half. Demonstrating the potency of their combination and the degree to which the team depends on them for scoring, Correal scored five points in the paint while Aldridge poured in three 3-pointers during the early stretch.
The advantage in the first half see-sawed between Pittsburgh and the College with neither team holding the lead for very long before the other team made another run. Correal, who hails from the Greater Pittsburgh area, made her city proud by scoring 23 points in 19 minutes in the first half. Additionally, senior guard Taylor Hilton dished out five assists during the first half to help craft the Tribe’s 43-40 lead going into halftime.
The Tribe clung to their lead for most of the second half with Pittsburgh always staying within striking distance. Each attempt by the Tribe to distance themselves from their opponents was effectively matched by a commensurate counter-punch from the Panthers attack. With a little over six minutes left in regulation, Pittsburgh cut their deficit down to one point before Hilton drained a clutch 3-pointer to solidify the Tribe’s lead heading into the homestretch.
Pittsburgh mounted another comeback in the closing minutes and held a 74-72 lead with under a minute left. With eight seconds left in play, Hilton hit a jump-shot from the foul stripe on an assist from Anna Kestler seemingly assuring the Tribe the upset.
A mere second away from victory, the Tribe defense fouled Pittsburgh Junior Asia Logan as she dribbled into scoring distance. Logan, then, hit the two foul shots to give her team the full escape from what just as likely could have been a loss.
The Tribe will try to recover from this demoralizing loss as they host Virginia Union on Wednesday at Kaplan Arena.