Like the saying goes, "It ain't easy being green."
After a nail biting win to open the season, Syracuse didn't need any suspense to beat the Dartmouth Big Green. The Orange improved to 2-0 by defeating Dartmouth, 88-47, in the team's home opener.
Sophomores Brittney Sykes had a career-high 26 points on 11-17 shooting along with six rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Dartmouth jumped out to a 5-1 lead, but couldn't sustain any of the early momentum. The Orange responded with a 29-11 run, in large part because of its press defense. The team was cognizant of Dartmouth's three-point shooting ability and tried to prevent any easy half-court possessions, coach Quentin Hillsman said.
"We definitely wanted to pressure and not let them get any easy trips through the zone," he said.
Syracuse benefited from the 10-second rule, which was added to the women's game this off-season. The Orange forced 22 turnovers, many of which came in the first half. SU was able to turn defense into offense and score several uncontested transition points. By halftime, Syracuse had a 49-27 lead.
Sophomore guard Brianna Butler said she enjoys playing in the press defense because of how much it spurs the offense.
"It definitely helps us lead into our offense," Butler said. "It gets us going, gets us steals, gets us in transition and makes the other team play faster."
Although Hillsman's style of play can be difficult for opponents, it also requires his players to have a high level of fitness.
"All preseason, all we did was run, run and run," Sykes said after the game. "Being in shape was the biggest thing this year."
But with a big lead, Hillsman was able to get Syracuse's bench players involved early and often. In fact, all 14 Syracuse players got into the game during the first half.
"We want to keep our players in double-digit minutes and keep our starting five fresh," Hillsman said. "We were able to sub and play multiple people for multiple minutes, which is big for our team."
After Sykes, Taylor Ford led Syracuse with a career-high 14 points. Although Syracuse doesn't usually rely on outside shooting, Ford's three-point shooting gave the Orange a spark from off the bench. Ford converted 4-of-5 from deep.
Syracuse out-rebounded Dartmouth 47-37, largely due to the play of senior center Shakeya Leary. She collected 14 rebounds after getting 16 in the season opener. Leary also had ten points and three blocks.
"She's done a great job. We expect this out of Keya," Sykes said.
Sykes credits Leary's hard work and competition against now-WNBA center Kayla Alexander in practice as the reason for her success.
"When Kayla was here last year, all of the years, her and Keya went at it every day in practice, getting rebounds, battle for the boards and scoring."
Leary now has two double-doubles to start the season.
Said Sykes, "We know what Keya can do. Now Keya's showing you guys what she can do."