Down by 15 points at halftime, Pitt-Johnstown played with energy and a sense of urgency after the break, but the Lady Cats were unable to erase the deficit, falling 79-66 to Tiffin on Tuesday night at the Sports Center.

“The first half killed us (Tuesday night),” UPJ coach Sasha Palmer said. “We finally found our offense (in the second half), but the defense wasn’t there. So now we have to come back and put both together.”

With the loss, the Lady Cats fell to 2-8.

Tiffin (8-10) led by as many as 19 points in the second half before Palmer’s team found its stride and cut into the huge lead.

Junior forward Lindsay Cale, who finished with a team-high 17 points, closed the deficit to single digits with a 3-pointer, then followed with a layup less than a minute later to bring the Lady Cats within six at 60-54.

However, the Lady Cats could not get any closer.

Tiffin guard Megen Fletcher scored four of her game-high 26 down the stretch, and Megan Jesulaitis hit two clutch 3-pointers in the waning moments to secure the victory.

The Lady Cats showed their youth in the first half, committing 10 turnovers compared to just four assists. Tiffin, led by Fletcher’s 19 first-half points, shot 65 percent in the opening 20 minutes, converting UPJ’s mistakes into layups and easy jump shots.

Tiffin was 4-for-9 from behind the 3-point line in the first half to go along with its inside game, and took a 44-29 lead into halftime.

Former Westmont player Krista Britcher scored 10 points in the first half despite playing only eight minutes, and was a key to the Lady Cats’ second-half rally coming off the bench.

“She (Britcher) should be doing this every game,” Palmer said of Britcher’s ability to score. “She is never going to be a forty-minute person, and we need her fresh on every single possession. … She just needs to improve on her defense, and she knows that.”

The loss is the fifth in a row for UPJ, but Palmer said her inexperienced club is showing signs of progress and she is not worried about the team.

“I am always going to say this: The effort is always there,” Palmer said. “Every team we play is going to have more experience than us, but we have to be smarter and learn quicker.

“We have talent and the team knows they do too. It is just a matter of putting it all together at this point and trying to move forward.”

With the bulk of the conference schedule ahead of them, Palmer said the one area the Lady Cats will have to work on the most is toughness.

“We lost (Tuesday night) with toughness,” she said. “In the end, when we really needed those stops, we weren’t tough enough to get it done. … It is just something they really have to learn.”

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