WBB : That close: SU falls shy of upsetting No. 1 UConn
For 39 minutes last night, Syracuse made everybody believe Connecticut was beatable.
For almost an entire game, the Orange played with an energy and intensity No. 1 UConn hadn’t seen all season long. SU’s Nicole Michael didn’t look sick, even though she was. Erica Morrow played like she’d played against the undisputed best team in the nation a dozen times, though she is only a freshman.
And with a minute left, in one of the most anticipated games in Syracuse women’s basketball history, the Orange trailed by only two and had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead.
So for 39 minutes, Syracuse made everybody believe Connecticut was beatable.
But a game lasts 40 minutes.
After closing a 10-point second half deficit, the Orange narrowly missed upsetting the top-seeded Huskies, falling, 65-59, in front of a record-setting crowd of 4,221 at the Carrier Dome on Tuesday. The attendance broke the previous mark of 3,779, set in 2006 also against UConn.
Syracuse (14-3, 2-2 Big East), which was led by Chandrea Jones’ game-high 18 points, held the lead for almost 20 minutes of action – even taking 36-32 advantage going into halftime – before finally relinquishing its advantage at the 11:33 mark of the second half.
But SU wouldn’t go down without a fight and made it a game until the closing seconds.
‘We just went out and proved to everyone we could compete with one of the top teams in the country,’ Morrow said.
At the 3:43 mark of the second half, the Orange trailed by 10, and the game seemed out of reach. Suddenly, Syracuse got hot, and Connecticut became careless with the ball, and SU went on a surprising 8-0 run, highlighted by a beautiful 3-point play by forward Vionca Murray.
With his team trailing by two in the final minute, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman drew up an in-bounds play for Morrow, probably the best long range shooter on the floor, leaving her open with a chance to connect on a go-ahead 3-pointer. The shot missed badly, though, and Connecticut managed to hold on.
It wasn’t easy, though, and UConn head coach Geno Auriemma was the first to admit it.
‘Even when we were up 10 it felt like we were down five,’ Auriemma said. ‘…They made it really hard for us to keep them in front of us, and they have mismatches all over the floor against us, it seems like.’
From the opening tip, Syracuse proved it came to play, that every single player wearing a white uniform believed beating UConn, which came into the game with a 41.1 point average margin of victory, was not impossible. Michael set the tone right away, hitting a long jumper in the first minute, making a steal on the other end and connecting on another shot.
When the teams went into the locker rooms at halftime, Syracuse held a four-point advantage, becoming the first time to lead Connecticut at halftime all season. At the break, Morrow led the way for SU with eight points while UConn’s leading scorer, freshman Maya Moore, had not scored a point.
But as the second half dragged on, Syracuse seemed to run out of steam. The shots stopped falling. The physical presence on the defensive end weakened. The double-teams started coming just a little bit slower. While the Orange was trying to catch its breath, the Huskies were just hitting their stride.
In the first half, the two squads both had 17 rebounds. In the second half, Connecticut out-rebounded SU, 37-13, seemingly having as many shot opportunities it needed to eventually score. The Huskies won the battle of second-chance points in the final 20 minutes, 13-0.
Moore, who seemed helpless earlier in the game, scored 13 points and grabbed 13 boards in the second half, helping propel her team into the lead for good.
‘I felt like the rebounds were pretty much going their way,’ Michael said. ‘I guess we didn’t box out good enough to get the rebounds.’
After the game, Hillsman stressed there were no moral victories, despite Syracuse’s strong effort. His players expressed the same sentiments. But not even Hillsman could deny UConn’s talent – it’s the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason.
‘I don’t know if anybody could beat them, I really don’t,’ Hillsman said. ‘They are very good. It wouldn’t surprise me if they ran the table because they are very good and very strong and very physical.’
Man of faith: Thomas Wolfe uses role as dean of Hendricks, student affairs to connect with SU students, faculty, staff
Thomas Wolfe has many talents. He can ride a unicycle, craft a perfect tuna noodle casserole and bring a community together in the face of… Read more »
UPDATED: May 22, 2013 at 3:05 p.m. Once again, Syracuse men’s head basketball coach Jim Boeheim made the most of any Syracuse University employee in… Read more »
IRS form shows SU's legal fees almost doubled from 2010-11; increase coincides with year of Bernie Fine allegations
UPDATED: May 22, 2013 at 3:07 p.m. The year sexual abuse allegations against Bernie Fine publicly broke, Syracuse University’s legal fees increased by about 92 percent. The… Read more »