Quentin Hillsman's defense is starting to look better and better. Against NC Central, his team dominated on the boards, on the turnover margin and, most notably, on the scoreboard.
The No. 22/20 Syracuse Orange (7-1) stomped the Eagles, 70-25, in the Carrier Dome on Sunday for its most lopsided win of the season. It's the fewest points Syracuse has allowed in a game since December of 2010. The Orange held the Eagles to 9-for-44 (21 percent) from the field, and Syracuse's hot start to the season continued even after a ten-day rest.
"Our defense was great," Hillsman said. "They hit two 3-point field goals in the first five minutes of the game and we only gave up one in the last 35 minutes. Obviously, that was what we needed to do on defense, keep their 3-pointers down. I thought we did a good job of that."
The Eagles didn't score until the 16:32 mark and the Orange jumped out to a 12-0 lead. After NC Central hit a pair of threes, it didn't score for almost seven minutes of play.
For the second straight game, the Orange offense sputtered at times. Syracuse made just a quarter of its three point attempts in the first half, a problem that's plagued the team all season. But, the Orange played better in the second half and relied on Eagles turnovers for a bulk of the scoring. Syracuse scored 29 points off 30 turnovers, while only giving the ball away 11 times as a team.
"I thought we shot the ball really well in the second half," Hillsman said. "We came out a little sluggish in the first half. You come out of finals off of 10 days off, you never know how that first half or even how that game could play out."
The team, again, missed its sparkplug in Brittney Sykes who's missed every game this season with a knee injury. Last week, Hillsman couldn't say when Sykes will come back to the lineup, only hinting that she's getting "close".
While he waits for her return, Hillsman's team has won with defense by keeping opposing offenses off-balance to make up for his own deficiencies. The Orange has given up fewer than 70 points in every game but one. And Syracuse's two best defensive performances have been its last two. The Orange held Penn State to 39 points in its previous game and continued that shutdown style right from the start.
Briana Day had a team-high 15 points and ten rebounds -- her fifth double-double of the season -- and helped the Orange dominate in the paint, once again. Alexis Peterson added 13 points, while Brianna Butler chipped in 11.