WBB : Syracuse up-and-down in 2nd-straight defeat by ranked foe
Two different teams faced Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Tuesday night: No. 25 Pittsburgh and Syracuse itself. By the end of the night it was hard to tell which team had actually beaten the Orange
SU lost to the Panthers, 84-75, in a game that easily could have been much closer or much worse.
At times Syracuse’s players couldn’t miss. Other times they missed everything. During stretches, they scooped every rebound and occasionally they could not even find the ball. They would constantly draw fouls and constantly commit them. In the end Pitt’s consistency won out.
‘We don’t play consistently bad,’ said Syracuse women’s head basketball coach Quentin Hillsman. ‘We don’t play consistently great anymore. We have this up and down. I think we have spurts where we’re playing really well and I think we have spurts where were not playing so well.’
Almost the entire first half appeared to be a time when the Orange was in a spurt of struggling to find consistency. The Panthers jumped to a 10-point lead within the first six minutes and led by as much as 20 points during the half.
The Panthers received strong performances from their guards while the Orange focused early on First Team All-Big East center Marcedes Walker. Pitt sophomore Xenia Stewart, who averages 11 points a game, had 16 points by halftime. The Panthers also had 14 second-chance points off of nine first-half offensive rebounds.
The only consistency from Syracuse in the first half came from center Vaida Sipaviciute, who picked up little help from her teammates, as she challenged Walker underneath. The team shot 9-for-25 in the first half and she hit five of those.
Once Sipaviciute started receiving assistance from her teammates, the Orange cut the deficit. A late first-half run highlighted by a Fantasia Goodwin lay-up that was immediately followed by her nailing a 3-pointer allowed Syracuse to move within 13
points as the Panthers took a 41-28 lead into the half.
Goodwin believed the consistent shooting the team showed near the end of the half signaled to the Orange the game was not over, and this surge sparked the Orange’s momentum as the team came out strong in the second half.
‘Knowing that we can compete with good teams, it motivates us to play hard,’ Goodwin said. ‘That was good for us. That gave us a little boost in the second half.’
Hillsman told his players he wanted them to come out aggressively after halftime and the Orange erupted to a hot start. Strong defensive pressure and smarter shot selection moved SU within one point of Pittsburgh. At one point SU guard Nicole Michael scored 11 straight points.
With Pittsburgh leading, 54-52, Syracuse guard Cintia Johnson stole the ball and sprinted crosscourt for a fast break lay-up that was too strong off the glass. When teammate Ashley McMillen brought down the offensive rebound instead of putting the rebound back up, she took the ball back behind the arc and misfired on a 3-pointer.
When it seemed the Orange had found some consistency, everything fell apart again. Michael received double and triple teams and forced bad shots, causing SU’s offense to lag. She is still learning to play against increased pressure.
‘I’m getting used to it now,’ Michael said. ‘I see what coach is talking about.
‘He’s telling me that now I’m a big time player they’re going to triple me and double me.’
And with Syracuse’s hot streak apparently over, Pittsburgh’s powerful center took control. Walker, sensing her own teammates’ consistent shooting was dying down, dominated late in the second half.
Walker seemed to be biding her time throughout the beginning of game, as she had a quiet six points on 3-for-3 shooting. But in the second half she continually powered her way inside as she finished with 11 points and helped Pittsburgh extend its lead.
The Orange cut the lead again to 76-70 on another hot streak with just over a minute left, but once again the consistency could not last and six points would be the closest the Orange would come.
During a game that could have been both a blowout and a Syracuse win, SU’s head coach said he was bothered the team could not pull off the win. Nevertheless, he thought Syracuse’s play today was a positive sign in regard to the team’s future.
‘I’m not really frustrated with what’s going on,’ Hillsman said ‘We’re young, we’ve got players playing different roles, out of position. Overall we’re just searching for some consistency.’
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