WBB : With focus on future, Hillsman axes typical postgame film review
In the days leading up to a game, it’s not uncommon for the Syracuse women’s basketball team to watch film from the previous game as a way to visualize what’s working and what still needs improvement. Oftentimes, the team uses film to dissect problems and make corrections before the upcoming contest.
This week, however, was not one of those times.
Coming off an emotional and well-publicized six-point loss to No. 1 Connecticut on Tuesday, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman made sure the UConn videotape stayed in the cabinet. Hillsman intentionally left film sessions out of the practice routine as a way of forcing his players to forget about the Huskies and stay focused on the next challenge.
While the local media continued to pound the team with questions about the Huskies, the Orange (14-3, 2-2 Big East) has to put all that in the past when it takes on Villanova (11-6, 1-3) tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Villanova, Pa. So far this season, Syracuse is 2-0 in games following a loss, but it hasn’t had a loss that created this kind of buzz.
Hillsman’s remedy? Keep looking ahead.
‘We haven’t looked back at the tape at all because we really need to move on,’ Hillsman said. ‘I thought it was very important for us to let go of the UConn game and move on. It’s important that that they get ready to play, and we’re totally moving on to Villanova.’
During his post-game press conference Tuesday night, Hillsman stressed he did not believe in moral victories, and reiterated those sentiments when he met with reporters Thursday afternoon.
Still, by losing by six to an undefeated team with an average margin of victory more than 40, Syracuse further enhanced its growing national presence. Even in the last couple of days, the SU players have garnered considerably more attention both on the campus and elsewhere, starting with the enthusiastic record crowd of 4,221 that filled the Carrier Dome on Tuesday.
Though the team seconded its coach’s statements about not accepting moral victories in a loss, the players realize their accomplishment and recognize they played one of their best games against the Huskies. The goal is to carry over that quality of play against Villanova, clearly a lesser opponent, but still a Big East foe.
‘We look at it two ways,’ SU guard Erica Morrow said. ‘One, we hung around with the top team in the country, which shows we can compete at a high level. If we come out and play like that every game, we’re a lock to be very successful.
‘We also think about it as, ‘All right, we played that game, it’s over with.’ Now we gotta keep doing what we do before, which was keep winning, so we gotta get this next victory. This is the most important one.’
With all the Orange’s success, suddenly a team that’s already won five more games than all of last season has a target on its back to the rest of the Big East. For the first time in years, Syracuse is relevant in the best conference in the country.
Suddenly, SU isn’t sneaking up on its opponents anymore, like it did during its non-conference schedule, when it rattled off an impressive 12-game winning streak. But Syracuse relished that underdog role, even as its confidence and identity continue to grow.
‘We have to feel like underdogs, because when we play like underdogs, we play harder and we play more physical,’ forward Nicole Michael said. ‘I would rather feel like underdogs than feel like we’re that good. Otherwise teams will come out and hit us first, and we’re done.’
Since the UConn game, Syracuse has been avoiding the notion that Saturday against Villanova could be a trap game, but Hillsman acknowledged that getting his team mentally ready for the Wildcats is ‘a bit of a concern.’
As a result of his worries, Hillsman kept the UConn film as far away as possible, not wanting his players to have that game in their minds this weekend. To Hillsman, Connecticut should be just another game.
But SU still has a bitter taste in its mouth, and a win against Villanova could be just what it needs to wash it out.
‘The attention has been great, but we didn’t win that game,’ Michael said. ‘It hurts me when I think about it because we should’ve had that game. It’s weird that we’re getting all this attention because we lost! We’re not satisfied with a six-point loss.’
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