Up 12 with 12 minutes left, Syracuse appeared to be cruising to another win. Brittney Sykes was having another stellar night and the Orange forced several early turnovers.
But Iowa's Melissa Dixon hit a shot from just outside the arc, scoring three of her 27 total points. Dixon's three started a pivotal 16-3 run for Iowa. It put the Hawkeyes up one point, their first lead in the second half. Syracuse had lost all momentum. Soon after, the Orange lost center Shakeya Leary, who fouled out with three minutes remaining. Freshman Briana Day made late two shots, which cut Syracuse's deficit to four points. But Sykes' traveling violation with 14 seconds left squandered any last-ditch effort.
The No. 22 Syracuse Orange (8-1) lost to the No. 25 Iowa Hawkeyes, 97-91. The Orange had rolled off eight consecutive wins – seven straight by double-digits – before losing in Iowa. Syracuse's best start came in 2009-10, when the Orange went 12-0.
The game featured eight lead changes, but Syracuse's poor defense late in the game proved too costly. Iowa scored 60 points in a second half that was dominated by Dixon.
Sykes scored 25 points on 10-13 shooting, had ten rebounds, five assists and two steals. Behind Sykes, Syracuse's leading scorers were Rachel Coffey (14), Brianna Butler (12) and Briana Day (10). Coffey hit a buzzer-beater at the end of the first half, which put SU up ten.
As a team, Syracuse forced nine turnovers in the first half, which helped them go on a few scoring streaks. But the well went dry after intermission. The Orange, uncharacteristically, only got four turnovers in the second half and it was the Hawkeyes' long scoring run that made the difference.
The Hawkeyes had a streak late in the second half when they scored points on four possessions in a row. When the Orange most desperately needed defensive stops, they couldn't get them. Just like Jim Boeheim's team, the kryptonite of the Syracuse 2-3 zone is a good three-point shooting team. The Hawkeyes made eleven threes, going 44 percent from deep. Dixon made seven by herself, all in the second half. The final one gave her team a six-point lead in the final minute. She moved to 8th on Iowa's all-time three pointers list.
In fairness to Syracuse, its sluggish finish to the game can be explained by the recent travel schedule. For every point Iowa scored, the Orange probably have two frequent flyer miles. SU spent Thanksgiving weekend in St. Thomas for the Paradise Jam tournament. The team came back to central New York for a few days before heading west to Iowa.
The Orange get a much needed 11-day break with finals week approaching on campus. Syracuse doesn't play until Dec. 16, when Temple comes to the Carrier Dome.