"We have three very good point guards and it just happened to be my time," Peterson said. "I was happy that (Coach Quentin Hillsman) had the trust in me to make plays."
Peterson averages just 8.9 minutes, but played for 17 on Sunday -- almost entirely in the second half. With 8:35 left in the game, she grabbed a defensive rebound and raced the length of the court. With one hand, she faked a pass right and laid the ball in to the left of her defender, drawing a foul.
Her spectacular play ignited the Syracuse Orange in a 76-70 win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. It is Syracuse's first conference win in the ACC. Following losses to Arizona State and NC State and an embarrassment against Duke, Syracuse pulled away with a much needed win. After getting blown out in the Dome on Thursday, the Orange made it up to the home fans. They came up with a thrilling victory in front of one of the largest crowds of the season.
"I give a lot of credit to Alexis Peterson tonight," Hillsman said. "She came into the game in the second half and calmed us down, got things straightened out, driving to the basket."
When Peterson checked into the game, the Orange trailed 47-46. When she finally checked out with 17 seconds left, the Orange were moments away from victory. She finished the game with seven points, three rebounds and two assists. But her high energy and composure at the point were just as crucial.
"We need people to step up," Brianna Butler said. "And today Alexis is one of the players to step up, to lead the team and just play with poise and help us out today."
A minute after the and-one play, she assisted on Butler's three. The play began a late 12-0 run for Syracuse that turned the game around. Georgia Tech tied the game up again at 67. But Butler hit another big second-half three, this time assisted by Brittney Sykes. Sykes and center Shakeya Leary sealed the game by converting six straight free throws.
Leary played very well for Syracuse early in the game. She scored on the first possession and then altered a shot on the defensive end. The 6-foot-3 center seemed to be everywhere on the court -- defending shots, scoring in the paint and kicking the ball out to shooters on the wing.
A minute later, Butler snuck a pass inside to Isabella Slim, who laid the ball in to give her team a 4-0 lead. But otherwise, Syracuse struggled to score. The Orange started 2-10 from the field. Butler and Sykes, the team's leading scorers, were quiet for most of the half. Butler missed her first six shots until finally hitting a three at the 10:36 mark. Eventually, these offensive woes caught up to Syracuse. The sharpshooting Yellow Jackets went on a 16-5 run late in the half and took a nine point lead.
The Orange countered with an 11-3 run, capped off by a dramatic three by Butler in the left corner. The Orange were fortunate to go to intermission only down 34-32 after being outplayed for long stretches.
More importantly, that final play spurred Butler who started the game shooting 1-10 and finished it 7-9. Butler hit a pair of threes early on the second half to tie the game, setting the scene for Peterson's big entrance. Butler focused more on shooting than driving later in the game and it paid dividends.
"In the second half and toward the end of the first half, when I hit that first three, it definitely made me more confident and I was able to knock down shots," Butler said.
She led the Orange with 23 points, despite being the on the radar of GT coach MaChelle Joseph.
"The number one focus of the game plan going in was Brianna Butler so obviously we didn't do a very good job," Joseph said.
This time, the Orange came through in the second half. It proved to Hillsman that his team is tough, something he questioned last week.
"Down the stretch, we made some really tough basketball plays," he said.
The game also showed the team how hard it is to win games in the ACC.
Said Sykes, "We came to realize that we can't go back to the way we used to play."