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WBB: Briana Day Leads Syracuse Past PSU For Second Straight Win

Syracuse's sophomore center had a career night and the Orange beat up on the defending Big Ten champions in a 61-39 victory in the Carrier Dome.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Maggie Morrison's wide open three from the right corner rattled off the rim, ricocheted on top of the backboard and rolled in.

It was just that type of night for Syracuse.  And it's been that type of year for Penn State -- the reigning Big Ten champions -- who fell to 1-6.  The Orange bulldozed the Nittany Lions, 61-39, in the Carrier Dome on Thursday night with a mix of good defense, strong rebounding and a bit of luck.

"It's pretty nice," Morrison said on her shot. "Most of my shots tonight were short, but coach was kind of saying to keep shooting and keep taking them."

For most of the night, the outside shots weren't falling.  The Orange was 7-40 (18 percent) from behind-the-arc, the team's worst percentage all season.  But Syracuse didn't have any trouble when it got the ball inside to Briana Day. The Nittany Lions just didn't have an answer for the sophomore center.  Day had 15 points and 13 rebounds, while tying a career-high with six blocks on the defensive end.

"She's staying aggressive and she's going after every rebound," Quentin Hillsman said.  "She's really attacking drives for us.  She's done a tremendous job and you can't ask for much more from her."

Day started her scoring at the free throw line just about two minutes into the game when she grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled going for a put-back layup.  On the next possession, she quickly curled around a defender for a layup.  Her combination of power and finesse was a handful inside for Penn State.

Even so, the Orange and Nittany Lions traded the lead back-and-forth for much of the first half.  But Syracuse jumped ahead with a 14-0 run midway through the half, taking a lead it wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the game. The scoring run started when Cornelia Fondren weaved an entry pass between two defenders to Day for an easy layup.

At one point, the Orange led, 26-15, with Day scoring half of the team's points.

"She's been huge every game," Morrison said.  "I think she's averaging a double-double this year so far. It gives us confidence when we shoot the ball, knowing that she's under the basket to pick up our rebounds.  She got a couple and-ones, which really gave us a momentum change."

Just as important, she shut down the Nittany Lions by altering shots and dominating on the glass.  She faced a pair of centers who were an inch or two taller, but still routinely beat them on the boards.

"I have to get those rebounds," Day said.  "I'm know an undersized post, but I can't let that not make me play hard so I just have to keep playing.  I think I'm just as big as them in my heart."

Besides Day, Fondren scored ten, while Brianna Butler had a quiet seven-point performance.  The Orange didn't have its cleanest shooting game, but it didn't matter.  The Nittany Lions couldn't generate much offense, especially during the last four minutes when they were unable to score.

Then Day capped off her night with one final block with about a minute left.

After the game, Hillsman joked that he's toughest on Day, but even he couldn't be critical of that performance. At one point, he compared her to Kayla Alexander, Syracuse's all-time leading scorer and rebounder.

"I would say that she does remind me a lot of Kayla," he said.  "They're two different players, but they got the same effect on us in the post."

Added Hillsman, "If she can do that and continue this, she's going to play basketball for a long time."