WBB : Syracuse cruises past South Florida with strong offensive performance
The ripple effect took hold of Syracuse and never let go. From one shooter to another, Syracuse found its stroke for the second consecutive game, elevating its confidence and building a lead that ballooned to as much as 33.
The shooting woes of the past have, for now, been transformed into a complete offensive performance combining outside shooting with the Orange’s trademark high-low game plan.
‘I think it’s kind of a ripple effect,’ SU guard Elashier Hall said. ‘Once one person gets going, it gets them confident, and then the confidence just builds throughout the whole team.’
Syracuse rode a 45 percent shooting performance to a 76-61 victory over South Florida on Saturday in front of 860 inside the Carrier Dome. The Orange (15-9, 4-6 Big East) drained four 3-pointers, two coming from guard La’Shay Taft, and also saw center Kayla Alexander provide 17 points from the low post. Hall shot 6-of-8 for 15 points, and forward Iasia Hemingway led the balanced scoring effort with 24 points, going 9-of-14 from the field.
After SU’s 80-54 blowout win over Providence last Tuesday, during which it shot nearly 58 percent, the Orange came into its game against the Bulls (12-12, 4-6) with a renewed belief that the shots it has been taking all season might finally start to fall on a consistent basis.
‘The shots we’ve had all year are starting to fall,’ head coach Quentin Hillsman said. ‘We’ve always gotten good looks. They did a good job of getting the floor spaced and getting themselves to areas where they can score. So now, they’re just falling. They’re shooting the ball with confidence.’
Defenses have routinely been packing the paint to strip SU of its go-to options inside on offense. And for much of the season, the Orange’s shooters have been essentially nonfactors.
But on Saturday, Syracuse finally provided some punch from the outside, forcing the Bulls to open up the low post and defend around the perimeter. And for the entire first half, SU had little trouble beating the USF defense.
Hemingway gave SU offensive production in just about every way possible. She started the game off by dishing the ball down low to Alexander for a layup to give SU an early 2-0 lead. Then the forward drained two free throws, and less than a minute later, she took a pass from guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas at the top of the lane for a catch-and-shoot jumper.
And Hemingway did all of that with USF’s defense collapsing on her every move.
‘Honestly, I just want to give the credit to my teammates getting the ball back to me,’ Hemingway said. ‘In the first half, they were pancaking, and they weren’t letting me get the throwback. But my teammates found a way to get me the ball.’
With about five minutes remaining in the first half, Syracuse also had a rare five-point play from Alexander after the center made a layup. South Florida center Akila McDonald was called for both a personal and technical foul.
Alexander drained all three free throws to cap off a 10-0 run that put SU up 34-14 en route to a 39-20 halftime lead. During that span, SU had a 3 from Taft, a jumper from Hemingway and the layup from Alexander.
Syracuse’s dominant first half established its offense for the second and also put the Bulls in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
Late in the game, South Florida began to amp up the intensity of its full-court press, at one point forcing two straight turnovers by SU guard Rachel Coffey. But by that point, USF had no chance to put together a comeback.
‘The same sort of thing happened at Providence, we got up, had a few turnovers late,’ Hillsman said. ‘So we just have to work on that late-game situation of people scrambling and pressing us a little bit. … I’m glad we were up 30 so it didn’t matter.’
As the season winds down, Syracuse appears to be hitting its stroke at the right time. For now, the Orange’s offense is becoming significantly better with contributions from the outside to go with its hallmarks of rebounding and post play.
‘The one thing I told our players was that we needed to come out and rebound the basketball and make shots and shoot at least 40 percent to win this basketball game,’ Hillsman said. ‘That’s what we did. We came out, made some shots and did a very good job of getting good shots.’
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