In a season marked by several blowout wins, the Orange got a taste of what competing in its new conference will be like, just days before the beginning of ACC play.
The No. 20 Syracuse Orange (11-2) lost 63-60, to the Arizona Sun Devils in Tempe, Ariz. The Sun Devils, ranked 24th, rolled off their tenth consecutive victory.
Syracuse wasted Brianna Butler's 25 point performance -- 20 in the first half -- in a back-and-forth contest. There were ten lead changes, but the Sun Devils never led by more than six points.
Fresh off a last-second win last week, the Orange needed another buzzer beater. With eight seconds left, the Orange trailed by three points. Butler, a 38 percent shooter from three, seemed like the obvious choice to take the last shot. Or even Brittney Sykes, the team's leading scorer and the hero from Syracuse's last game. Instead, it was Rachel Coffey, who hoisted a contested shot that was off the mark.
Butler's hot start helped Syracuse jump out to a four point lead at the half. But when the well went dry for her in the second half, the Orange struggled to find a way to score consistently.
Backup center Briana Day played most of the second half and was able to provide some good minutes. She scored on consecutive possessions midway through the half to give the Orange a three point advantage. Day tallied a team-high 12 rebounds in an otherwise disappointing performance on the boards for Syracuse. SU was out-rebounded 49-38 and the Sun Devils particularly capitalized on the offensive glass. Combined with a shaky shooting performance, it made for a precarious night.
Sykes' lay up with 2:01 left gave Syracuse a one point lead, which lasted only thirty seconds. Kelsey Moos put Arizona State ahead and the Orange didn't score at all thereafter.
While the Orange completed non-conference play with a loss, it did provide a critical wake-up call that playing cupcake teams like Niagara and Maryland Eastern Shore won't do. Scoring depth has been a strength for Syracuse all season long, but disappeared in the desert. Butler and Sykes (13) were the only players who scored in double-digits for the Orange. Aside from them, Syracuse only scored 22 points. The three other starters contributed just four points.
The sophomore duo shot 48 percent from the field. The rest of the team shot a measly 30 percent.
Even Sykes had a quiet night by her standards. She went 6-13, only her second game this season under 50 percent. Her 13 points were a season low. She just wasn't able to get to the free throw line on Monday, going a quiet 1-2 at the charity stripe. Usually, her powerful mid-range game is very hard for opponents to contain and, as a result, she leads the Orange in free throws made and attempted. Coming into the game, she averaged 5.0 free throws converted per game. When the game is within three points, that's the difference between winning and losing.
The Sun Devils played a very clean and disciplined game. They only committed 13 personal fouls, the fewest for any of Syracuse's opponents this season. As a team, Syracuse went 5-10 from line. It's Syracuse's first game with 10-or-less made free throws.
The Orange travel to Raleigh to face NC State on Sunday.