Before Friday, the last time Youngstown State University senior forward Brandi Brown faced the University of Pittsburgh was two years ago when her team lost by 20 in Pitt.
Three years ago, the Penguins lost by 52 at home. Brown was a freshman, and the Penguins finished 0-30 that season. The losses left a bitter taste in Brown’s mouth, namely the 52-point defeat.
“I think of the loss…which was a while ago,” she said.
So when Brown exited the Petersen Events Center following YSUs 64-50 victory against Pitt in the 2012-2013 women’s basketball season opener, she was left with a different feeling.
“It feels really good,” she said. “It was a team effort. A lot of people stepped up and hit big shots and it feels awesome.”
The Penguins ability to hit numerous “big shots” was the difference between starting the season 1-0 rather than 0-1.
And those “big shots” came from many different players.
Liz Hornberger hit the first clutch shot — a 3-pointer — tying the score at 44 with 7:50 left in the game. Brown then followed with a three-point play to give the Penguins a 47-44 lead.
Next, after a couple of free throws by Melissa Thompson, a 3-pointer by Monica Touvelle stretched the YSU lead to 52-44.
Although Pitt cut into the lead briefly, 52-48, two more clutch 3-point shots by Thompson and Touvelle put the Panthers away for good.
“I thought our character really showed that we didn’t back down and stop battling,” said head coach Bob Bolden. “We stayed in it when it looked like they were gonna run away from us a couple times in the first half.”
In a first half where the Penguins committed 13 turnovers and shot 29 percent, YSU fell behind by 12 points at halftime.
The Penguins picked up the pace in the second half, shooting 42 percent – including 8 of 15 from behind the arc – while holding Pitt to 22 percent.
“I wish we could say there was a clever halftime adjustment that we came up with,” Boldon said. “In reality, I think our team just gained some confidence in each other and the game plan. I thought they played with a lot of heart in the second half.”
The second half turnaround came as a result of the Penguins’ ability to slow down Panthers center Cora McManus. Although she finished with a career-high 16 points, the sophomore struggled to contribute for much of the second half.
“We wanted to protect the paint and we didn’t do a very good job in the first half,” Brown said. “In the second half, it was everybody’s job to put a body on [McManus] and make sure we’re boxing her out.”
Brown led the Penguins with 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Thompson added 13 points and Touvelle added 12. With a versatile performance, freshman guard Shar’Rae Davis contributed four points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
With the victory, YSU has now beaten Pitt to open its women’s basketball and football season.
Boldon says it’s just a coincidence.
“No,” he said when asked if there’s a certain formula to beating the Panthers. “If there is, I’m pissed at whoever didn’t tell me about it.”