Youth never a problem for SU on the court
Syracuse senior Chineze Nwagbo stood around the basketball court at Manley Field House waiting for practice to begin yesterday. As Nwagbo lingered on the side of the court, freshman Amanda Adamson snuck behind her, playfully slapped the captain’s back with a towel and said, ‘Chine’s hot.’
Just moments earlier, freshman Jessica Richter sprinted across the arena with her arms tucked into her shirt, followed by fellow classmates Vaida Sipaviciute and Mary Joe Riley, who shared a good laugh.
While the Syracuse women’s basketball team’s youth shows off the court, SU is becoming increasingly mature on the court. After a tough 69-61 loss at No. 7 Rutgers on Sunday, the Orange looks to rebound tonight at 7:30 when it visits Villanova. SU defeated the Wildcats, 45-42, on Jan. 29.
Syracuse head coach Keith Cieplicki sees Sunday’s game at Rutgers as a huge step for a team that normally has three freshmen among its starting five. Although the Orange (11-10, 3-7 Big East) committed 26 turnovers against the Scarlet Knights (16-5, 7-2), it still found a way to hang with a team that defeated three Top 5 teams in early January.
‘I was so impressed,’ Cieplicki said. ‘We played with a lot of poise. Every time they wanted to put us away, somebody made a big play. When you learn to ride a bike, two years later you don’t drive down the street and fall over. You just keep riding. What we got to learn now from that game is that we’ve got to be consistent. We’re very close to that.’
Syracuse already tied its Big East win total from last season and with the emergence of Sipaviciute as a serious inside threat, it is poised to continue challenging Big East opponents.
Cieplicki believes Syracuse needs a strong inside game to compete in the Big East and Sipaviciute’s development is central to the Orange’s success. SU will continue to push the ball inside to Sipaviciute and Nwagbo, hoping for easy shots in the paint or open looks from the perimeter for Richter and sophomore Lauren Kohn.
Villanova (12-8, 5-4) surely expects this strategy from the Orange. Against the Wildcats on Jan. 29, SU scored 32 of its 45 points in the paint and only attempted six 3-pointers.
‘They’re going to come with the adjustments they needed to make in the last game,’ Nwagbo said. ‘There’ll probably be more double on the post. As a team, we need to play together and make the defense a little bit better. I’m going to go out with the same mindset and hopefully I’ll do as well as the first time.’
With the SU offense running through the post, Nwagbo and Sipaviciute will need to match their performances from the first Villanova game. The Orange averages 58.2 points in Big East play with 21.5 points coming from Nwagbo and Sipaviciute.
‘We just have to play our game, stay under control and take care of our business,’ Syracuse guard Rochelle Coleman said. ‘We need to keep our turnovers down and execute our offense. If (the post players are) open, we’re going to give them the ball.’
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