Zellous and Walker lead Panthers into regional semifinal
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP)—Pitt had just scored its biggest win in women’s basketball and guard Shavonte Zellous leaped on the back of big teammate Marcedes Walker at midcourt.
In the game, it was Zellous who carried the Panthers into the Spokane Regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament Monday night.
The former track sprinter turned shooting guard scored 19 points and grabbed a key late rebound to lead the No. 6 seeded Panthers to a 67-59 win over No. 3 seed and former national champion Baylor.
“She hit big shots and made big plays,” said Baylor forward Rachel Allison of Zellous. “That’s something we didn’t do.”
Pitt (24-10) is in a regional semifinal for the first time in school history. Baylor (25-7) lost in the second round for the second year in a row and the difference turned out to be Zellous and Walker.
The Bears were led by their frontline duo of Danielle Wilson with 15 points and Rachel Allison with 14. But Wilson went scoreless and without a rebound in the second half. Guard Angela Tisdale finished with 13.
Pittsburgh’s dynamic duo simply took over the Panthers’ offense and the game in the second half.
Walker, an intimidating 6-foot-4 center, scored 12 of her 17 points in the second half and grabbed nine rebounds before fouling out with 5:28 left. She got the last two fouls in a span of less than a minute and Pitt’s 53-49 lead at the time was in jeopardy.
Not that Pitt coach Agnus Berenato was too worried.
“None of those thoughts ever entered my mind,” said a smiling Berenato, who has lifted the Pitt program to national prominence.
Zellous took the Panthers the rest of the way. She hit three free throws with 4:59 left after being fouled behind the arc and Pitt holding a two-point lead. She then outhustled a Baylor player to a loose-ball rebound with 37 seconds left and the Panthers up 61-54.
“That’s one of our themes. Do your job,” Zellous said of her play down the stretch. “When Marcedes went out, I just did my job, which was scoring and playing defense.”
A 3-pointer by Tisdale with 26.9 seconds left got the Bears within 61-57, but it was too little too late, especially after Baylor guard Kelli Griffin was whistled for an intentional foul with 24.5 seconds left.
Sophronia Sallard hit both free throws off the call, and two more free throws by point guard Mallorie Winn sealed it for the Panthers.
It was missed free throws and too many missed opportunities, not the intentional foul that hurt the Bears, said Baylor coach Kim Mulkey.
“It was the right call,” Mulkey said. “You can’t grab her like that. That was desperation. It had nothing to do with the outcome.”
Much more important, said Mulkey, were Zellous’ three free throws.
“That was a huge, critical call with a second left on the shot clock and us within two points,” Mulkey said.
Mulkey also pointed to 11 missed free throws by the Bears and poor shooting at the end of the first half when Baylor couldn’t build on a six-point lead. Baylor was 18-of-29 from the free throw line.
“We didn’t extend the lead at the end of the first half and we had turnovers by some of our veteran players,” Mulkey said.
Pitt will play Stanford in the regional semifinals next week in Spokane.
The Panthers won despite going nearly nine minutes without a field goal in the second half. A putback basket by Taneisha Harrison with 1:57 left ended the drought, but Pitt had enough of a cushion after hitting its first five shots of the second half.
Baylor could get no closer than 56-53 as both teams, showing the effects of playing at mile-high altitude and the pressure of the NCAA tournament, traded turnovers and missed free throws late in the game.
With Pitt able to shut down Tisdale—the Bears’ leading scorer with a 16.5 average—through the first 11 minutes, the 6-3 Wilson became the Bears’ go-to option. The sophomore responded well, scoring 15 points in the first half while hitting 6 of 9 shots.
Tisdale, who scored 26 points in Baylor’s 88-67 opening round win over Fresno State on Saturday, went scoreless through the first 11 minutes Monday.
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