Clemson returned home to the friendly confines of Littlejohn Coliseum on Thursday after a heartbreaking loss to Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Sunday.
The Lady Tigers fought back from a late deficit and carried the game into overtime to secure a 75-67 win over Pittsburgh and snap a three-game skid in ACC play.
Clemson (6-11, 2-3 ACC) dominated to overtime period to knock off the visiting Panthers (3-13, 0-5 ACC). The Lady Tigers finished with four players in double figures including Kendall Spray (14), Hannah Hank (12), Kobi Thornton (16) and Amari Robinson (20).
Head coach Amanda Butler knew a win on Thursday was pivotal to keep Clemson alive in league play.
“It’s huge in the league regardless of who you play to bring the best version of yourself,” Butler said. “It was really important game for us to put Pitt behind us and we knew they would play very tough and ultimately down the stretch we made enough plays to come away with a win.”
Clemson showed up early and jumped out to a 20-12 first quarter lead behind a 10-point period for Kendall Spray, who knocked down a pair of three pointers.
After the Lady Tigers held the lead for 16:56 seconds Pitt fought back in the second and went on a run to tie the Lady Tigers at 36 on a three pointer from Aysia Bugg with three seconds in the half as the two teams entered the halftime break. The Panthers outscored Clemson 24-16 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, Pitt gained their first lead since early in the first quarter on a Gabbie Green three-pointer 30 seconds into the second half to claim a 39-38 advantage. Then the Panthers jumped out on a 7-2 run in 1:16 to take a 47-42 lead with 7:28 to play. After some ebb and flow Pitt carried a 56-53 lead into the fourth quarter.
Both teams struggled to score the ball in the final period of play, in fact for 3:33 neither team connected from the field. Then Hannah Hank cut the Pitt lead to 63-61 with 2:13 remaining in the contest to put the Lady Tigers within striking distance under two minutes.
Thornton followed on the other end and scored in the paint to tie the game at 63 with 1:11 to play and Clemson had its opportunity after a huge steal by Amari Robinson. But neither team sealed the deal in regulation due to intense defense and physicality and the game went to overtime tied at 63.
The Lady Tigers stormed out in overtime and outscored Pitt 12-4 when it mattered most. Shania Mertens nailed a three-pointer right wing put Clemson up 67-65 and a run ensued that saw Clemson finish victorious with a 73-67 win in overtime.
Defense won the day for the Lady Tigers and Butler was proud of how her team responded to the game plan in order to limit Pittsburgh’s guard play.
“We’re playing defense a little unconventionally from what we normally do to see versatility in how we guard people,” Butler said. “We played a lot of zone in the first half of the season obviously we scouted for their abilities and worked in some man and when the ball wasn’t falling, we had to be able to rely on our defense.”
Clemson returns to action Sunday at 11:45 am in Littlejohn as it hosts the Duke Blue Devils.