WBB : Back-to-back games will test depleted Orange roster
The Syracuse women’s basketball team snapped a three-game losing streak Tuesday with a 66-49 rout of Colgate. But after a 46-point first half, the team managed just 20 points in the latter half of the game. It is a trend that has followed the shorthanded Orange all year and it appears SU will have to battle exhaustion throughout its entire schedule if it hopes to have a successful season.
A huge test for Syracuse’s endurance begins Saturday when the Orange face opponents on back-to-back afternoons during the Brown Classic in Providence, R.I. SU will play Rhode Island at 3 p.m. on Saturday and either Brown or UC Davis on Sunday.
Injuries have forced SU’s starting five to play an average of 30 minutes a game, and with walk-ons primarily subbing in for the starters, it appears the lack of depth on this young and bedraggled Orange has resulted in the team’s recent second half failures.
In Tuesday’s win, Syracuse topped 60 points for the second time all season-the other time being SU’s only previous win, when it tallied 72 points against Cornell. However, the 20-point second half was the team’s lowest scoring output in a half since putting up 18 points in the second half against Lehigh on Nov. 19.
Syracuse women’s basketball coach Quentin Hillsman brought a fast tempo, high-intensity offense to the squad when he was hired in October. Consequently, it was not easy for Hillsman to admit the reason for the team’s second half struggles-players were running out of gas at the end of games.
‘We don’t focus on (fatigue) because we can’t use it as an excuse, but it’s one of our deficiencies,’ Hillsman said. ‘We have deficiencies as a team and if you go down the list one of them is going to be depth and one of them is going to be our fatigue factor as we start playing in the late parts of these games.’
Huge drops in shooting percentage during the second half have become a theme throughout Syracuse’s season. It seems a strong start will be necessary for the team to overcome the second-half fatigue that likely will plague them for the rest of the season.
Hillsman expects, at least for now, to keep coaching with an undermanned bench throughout the year. He mentioned progress has been made with the five injured scholarship players and some are shooting again. However, none of the hurt players are cleared to participate in contact drills.
The Orange showed the power of a solid start against Colgate. SU finished the first half with a season-high 46 points and took a 21-point lead to halftime, making Syracuse’s 20-point second half seem inconsequential.
‘We were kind of tired out there a little bit near the end of the game,’ Syracuse guard Nicole Michael said. ‘But because we had so much of a lead it was basically an automatic win.’
Michael, who has lead the team in scoring the past four games, blamed poor defense and a lack of focus for the breakdowns in the game’s final minutes during the three-game losing streak. The team had not lost by more than seven points during that stretch.
Syracuse guard Mary Joe Riley acknowledged the difficulty she and the other starters have had adjusting to having a playing time of close to 30-plus minutes each game. Still, she knows with few options available on the sideline that she must keep trying to go full speed after a half-hour of running up and down the court.
‘It can get winded at time but that’s just everybody,’ Riley said. ‘Anybody can get winded playing the game. But we have to stay strong and keep competing and playing hard.’
Syracuse’s short bench soon will have to handle the intensity of the Big East conference. This weekend’s consecutive games should foreshadow whether the Orange will wear out once January rolls around, bringing with it the core of the Big East schedule.
‘I guess the main thing is just try to do what you can and keep people fresh,’ Hillsman said. ‘Just try to control the tempo a little better this weekend, and try to make sure we keep everyone going.’
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