First year Clemson women’s basketball Head Coach Audra Smith and her team (9-8, 1-2 ACC) claimed their first conference win of the season by beating the Pittsburgh Panthers (9-8, 1-2 ACC), a new addition to the Atlantic Coast Conference, 77-67 Sunday in Littlejohn Coliseum. Smith, after playing basketball for the University of Virginia for four years, served as an assistant on the coaching staff for 10 years before getting her first head coaching opportunity in 2004 for the University of
She revitalized the UAB women’s basketball program, helping them to become one of the best teams in Conference USA and gain national recognition. Clemson women’s basketball, which has not had a winning season since 2003-04, hired Smith this season in the hopes that she will be able to do the same thing with this team.
Clemson started the game with a point guard and four wing players in order to pressure Pittsburgh into playing faster and making mistakes. “We knew that their tallest player was going to be about 6 feet tall, so that’s why we went with the smaller lineup,” Smith said. “We tried to jump out and press, and we thought that would rattle them.”
However, that strategy did not work in the early stages of the game, as the Panthers made seven out of their first 10 shots and jumped out to an 18-11 lead. Coach Smith then made the proper adjustments to her game plan, and the Tigers stormed back to take a 28-26 lead near the end of the first half and never gave
“I was surprised we were able to rattle Georgia Tech and not Pitt,” Smith said. “But we tried to go court-to-court and that didn’t work, so then we settled down and mixed it up with some zone and some man.” Pittsburgh, led by Head Coach Suzie McConnell-Serio, who is also in her first year as head coach for the Panthers, missed seven of its last eight shots in the first half and trailed 32-28 at halftime.
The second half belonged to the Tigers. They scored 45 points, hitting six out of their first 10 shots, to extend the lead to nine points by the 13-minute mark. Clemson’s defense also came up big in the second half, holding Pittsburgh to just 30 percent shooting and increasing their rebounding advantage over the Panthers in the game to 46-30.
Smith and her team shot 46 percent from the field for the game, including 43 percent from long range. Cora McManus tried to keep her team in it by scoring all nine of her points consecutively for Pittsburgh, cutting the deficit to five with nine minutes left to play, but Clemson’s Kelly Gramlich stopped the bleeding by hitting her fourth 3-pointer of the game on the team’s next possession. Gramlich finished the game with 14 points. The Tigers scored their final 13 points in the game from the free throw line to seal the 77-67 victory over the Panthers in the first ever conference matchup between the
Brianna Kiesel, the reigning ACC player of the week, led Pittsburgh in scoring with 29, while Nikki Dixon had a career day for Clemson, leading her team with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Coach Smith praised the performance of her players after the game: “It was a great effort all the way around … I’m really proud of the ways the kids played … and of course, I know y’all are going to ask about Nikki. She continues to do the things we ask her to do. Which is what? Attack the basket. When she does that, we are really hard to stop.”
The Lady Tigers will face off against theWake Forest Demon Deacons, another ACC foe, Monday night at 7 p.m. in Littlejohn Coliseum.