Akila McDonald scored the go-ahead basket with 24 seconds left to upset No. 21/18 Syracuse Orange (22-4, 10-3) on Saturday. SU's 13-0 run to close the first half was not enough to hold off the hot-shooting Bulls.
Well, it just wasn't a good day to be a Syracuse Orange basketball fan.
The Bulls (19-7, 8-5) closed the game on a 17-7 run in a 68-66 victory, ending Syracuse's six game win streak. For most of the season, SU has been able to win games despite getting off to slow starts. It looked as if that trend would continue against USF, but Syracuse's luck finally ran out.
The Orange actually scored the first seven points of the game. USF got on the board with a three pointer by Andrell Smith. On the next possession, her twin sister, Andrea Smith hit another three. The Big East TV crew emphasized a few times during the broadcast how hard it is to tell the sisters apart. Syracuse had trouble just trying to defend them. Andrea Smith had a game-high 18 points and her sister scored 16.
With a little over two minutes left in the first half, the game was tied at 26. Syracuse took the lead after Taylor Ford made two free throws. Carmen Tyson-Thomas scored nine unanswered points and the Orange went into halftime with a 37-26 lead.
"Our kids played tough to end the (first) half, Coach Quentin Hillsman said. "I thought in the game we were just one free rebound, one free throw away from putting the game away."
The Bulls gradually chipped away at the lead and the Orange weren't able to get defensive stops when most needed. In the second half, USF went 50 percent (6-12) from three. The most important one came with 1:46 left in the game.
Andrell Smith missed a three, but Inga Orekhova was there for the offensive rebound. Orenkhova kicked it back out to Smith, who made the most of the second chance. Her three put USF up two and gave the Bulls their first lead of the half.
CTT's layup evened the score, but McDonald scored to put the Bulls back up with 24 seconds to go. Rachel Coffey drove to the lane but her shot didn't connect. The Orange regained possession with five seconds left, but Coffey's last-chance 30-footer did not go.
Tyson-Thomas scored a team-high 17 points, followed by Brianna Butler (12), and Kayla Alexander (11).
Syracuse is third in the country is steals and that trend continued on Saturday. The Orange doubled up on the Bulls in steals and outscored USF in points off turnovers, 21-5. What really killed Syracuse was the inability to keep up with USF's shooting, not from three, but at the line.
In the second half, the Bulls converted 10-of-13 free throws. The Orange went 1-8. Lacie Hall missed four consecutive free throws early on in the second half, which allowed USF to cut the lead to single digits.
"When you’re on the road and you have opportunities to get easy baskets and to get uncontested baskets, which a free throw is, you have to make it," Hillsman said. "Down the stretch we just didn’t make uncontested shots."
Syracuse plays its final road Big East game on Tuesday against Skylar Diggins and the second-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The game is on CBS Sports Network at 7 p.m. EST.