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Shooting woes cause Chattanooga women to fall 51-40 to Pitt in first round of NCAA Tournament

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KNOXVILLE, Tennessee — For the second straight year, the start of the NCAA Tournament was the end of a 25-game winning streak for Chattanooga.

Stasha Carey scored 16 points and had 13 rebounds Saturday and Pittsburgh defeated Chattanooga 51-40 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Pittsburgh (20-11), the No. 10 seed in the Spokane Region, will play No. 2 seed Tennessee on Monday.

Chattanooga (29-4) had won 25 straight games since a 57-52 loss at Arkansas State on Dec. 1, but the seventh-seeded Mocs shot a season-low 26.2 percent and never led all day against Pittsburgh.

"We were missing that strong leader to step up," said Chattanooga forward Jasmine Joyner, who had 10 points and nine rebounds before fouling out. "I feel like that's our first step to becoming a better team.

"We have to find that leader who will step up and get us in order. And we also have to prepare ourselves this summer. We have to work harder. It's not going to be given to us. We have to just work harder, so we can get here next year and work farther."

Last season, Chattanooga also had won 25 straight games before falling 59-53 to Syracuse in the opening round. Chattanooga has eight straight NCAA Tournament losses since beating Rutgers in a 2004 first-round game.

Chattanooga responded to last year's first-round exit by upgrading its schedule to get more prepared for the postseason. After beating Tennessee and Stanford when both were ranked in the top 10, the Mocs believed they'd be ready for anything they encountered in the tournament.

But they quickly fell behind 11-2 against Pittsburgh and struggled to establish any kind of offense all day. They rallied to tie the game on a few occasions, but Pittsburgh responded each time.

Chattanooga coach Jim Foster already had a message ready for his players as they head into the offseason.

"Work hard," Foster said. "Get better. We have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores out there who got some experience. Get in the weight room. Get stronger. Understand the commitment that's necessary to be successful at (this) level. Getting there is one thing. Winning is another."

The victory continued a surprising season for Pittsburgh, which was picked to finish last in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Panthers instead ended a string of four straight losing seasons and are in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"What a special moment," Pittsburgh coach Suzie McConnell-Serio said. "The enthusiasm, the energy in the locker room, it's just why you coach every single day, seeing your players with the smiles on their faces and the reaction to getting a win like this — a signature win."

PHOTO: Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster talks to forward Destiny Bramblett (24) in the first half of an NCAA women's college basketball tournament game against Pittsburgh on Saturday March 21, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Chattanooga head coach Jim Foster talks to forward Destiny Bramblett (24) in the first half of an NCAA women's college basketball tournament game against Pittsburgh on Saturday March 21, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Mocs tied the score on two Alicia Payne free throws with 12:05 left, but they went cold the rest of the game as Pittsburgh reeled off nine straight points to pull ahead for good.

Chattanooga went nearly seven minutes without a basket during one stretch in the second half against a Pittsburgh team that entered the NCAA Tournament ranked second in the ACC in field-goal percentage defense (.362).

"Our defense is our main point of the game," Carey said. "It's where we're strongest."

TIP-INS

Pittsburgh: Brianna Kiesel scored 13 points Saturday. Kiesel is the first player in Pittsburgh history to have 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists.

Chattanooga: The Mocs' No. 7 seed was their best in school history. Their previous best was a No. 10 seed in 2004. ... Chelsey Shumpert entered the tournament with 11.9 points per game to rank second on the team, but she went scoreless Saturday while shooting 0 of 6 overall and 0 of 4 from 3-point range.

FRESHMAN JITTERS?

Carey, a freshman, was playing her first NCAA Tournament game Saturday, but she showed the poise of an upperclassman up until she got into the interview room.

That's when she finally showed some freshman jitters while trying to answer questions.

"I'm bad at this," Carey said as she finished answering one question.

"You'd better get used to it," McConnell-Serio replied.

UP NEXT:

Pittsburgh plays either No. 2 seed Tennessee or No. 15 seed Boise State on Monday at Knoxville.

Chattanooga will head into next season needing to replace only two seniors from this season's normal playing rotation — Ka'Vonne Towns and Destiny Bramblett.

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Photo Gallery:
PHOTO: Pittsburgh guard Brianna Kiesel (3) drives against Chattanooga guard Alicia Payne (1) in the second half of an NCAA women's college basketball tournament game, Saturday, March 21, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. Pittsburgh won 51-40. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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