It only took Brittney Sykes about six minutes to assert herself as the best player on the court.
Layups, jump shots, assists, steals and leading fast breaks. Sykes, a sophomore guard, did all of those by the 13:58 mark in the first half and she continued to do-it-all throughout the night.
Sykes had 23 points on 8-14 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, six assists and five steals. Her performance helped the Syracuse Orange defeat the Cornell Big Red, 89-48, and improve to 3-0 on the season.
"She is really aggressive," coach Quentin Hillsman said about Sykes. "She's attacking the rim. She's forcing action and that's what it's all about."
Between her freshman and sophomore year, Sykes focused on being a more consistent player.
"Consistently running the floor, consistently trying to get my teammates open and consistently rebounding because coming into our sophomore year, we knew we'd have to play big minutes and step up," Sykes said.
Shakeya Leary posted her third double-double of the season. The Brooklyn native had ten points and 15 rebounds. Leary benefited by being three inches taller than any Cornell starting player.
Guard Brianna Butler had a much better performance against Cornell than in her first two games. Butler shot a combined 6-27 (22 percent) in those two games, but Hillsman wanted her to keep shooting.
"She's got to continue to take open shots and take looks that are given to her," Hillsman said. "Whenever she gets a look at the rim, she's got to be able to shoot the ball with confidence and make shots."
Butler started 0-3, but she didn't let it bother her. She hit her next three shots and finished the game 5-12 from the floor and had 13 points.
"It felt good to be able to hit shots," Butler said. "It got my confidence up and I'm just happy that my teammates were able to hit me and I was able to knock down the open shot."
Freshman point guard Alexis Peterson had an efficient game, scoring seven points in just 14 minutes. Peterson converted both free throw attempts and went 2-2 from the field, including one three. Peterson is forcing Hillsman to make some tough decisions at the point guard position. Senior Rachel Coffey is the starter this year, sophomore Cornelia Fondren started all 32 games last year and now Peterson is making a case for more playing time.
On D, the Syracuse press defense made Cornell's players uncomfortable all night. Here are the stats to prove it:
- The Big Red committed 29 turnovers, nearly twice as many as SU.
- The Orange had 31 points off turnovers, many of which contributed to Syracuse scoring runs.
- Fast break points: Syracuse 27, Cornell 2
But for Syracuse, the transition game from offense to defense was just as important, Hillsman said.
"Defensively, we did a very good job at keeping them in front of us and identifying their shooters and their scorers," he said.
In Cornell's previous game, the Big Red shot an impressive 50 percent (9-18) from three-point range.
"Going into a game like this, when you know that you're playing a team that likes to shoot a lot of threes, that wants to get down the floor, you just want to get your defense set, get your defense loaded toward the ball, and gets stops. I think we did that today."
Next up for Syracuse is Maryland Eastern Shore, who comes to the Carrier Night on Wednesday night.