The second half has been all Brittney Sykes time this season in the ACC, particularly when Syracuse is struggling to put away an opponent.
Wash, rinse and repeat.
Against the Miami Hurricanes, that trend continued. The sophomore guard scored 13 of her 18 points in the second half and the Syracuse Orange won 69-48 in Coral Gables. When Sykes is going well, the team is going well simply because she attracts so much attention. In games that she has scored in double digits, the Orange is 19-4. When she's been held to nine points or fewer, Syracuse is 0-4.
The "Orange" wore the blue uniforms once again. But, unlike the men, that doesn't seem to be a problem. Syracuse is now 5-2 in blue.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, Syracuse stands at 8-6 in the ACC, good for 6th place. Syracuse took care of business this week by blowing out Miami and Boston College, two of the weakest teams in the conference. The Orange finish out the regular season with Pittsburgh and Wake Forest. Both are under-500 in conference play.
Behind Sykes, the leading scorers for the Orange were Shakeya Leary (11), La'Shay Taft (11) and Brianna Butler (9). Taft has been a real spark off the bench for Syracuse, of late. In the first 24 games of the season, the senior guard had three games with 10+ points. In the past three games, she's doubled that mark – posting consecutive point totals of 18,12, and tonight, 11.
But despite the final score, it didn't always look so promising for the Orange. It may have been 75 degrees outside BankUnited Center, but Syracuse came out to a very cold start. Miami opened the game with 7-0 run. The Orange missed the first nine shots and trailed by as many as eight points.
When Sykes scored on a fastbreak layup with 2:40 left in the half, it gave Syracuse its first lead of the game. The Hurricanes went back ahead momentarily, but Syracuse re-took the lead a minute later and this time never gave it back. The Orange gave themselves some insurance before halftime by locking down on defense. In the last six minutes of the half, the Hurricanes scored just five points.
Sykes scored eight seconds after intermission, which set off a scoring frenzy for Syracuse. The Orange went on a 17-4 run to start the first few minutes of the second half. Leary helped preserve the lead by playing stellar defense, especially as the game went on. She had 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals. Due to Leary's play inside, the Orange had a commanding 22-8 advantage in points in the paint. With just over four minutes left in the game, Leary collected her tenth rebound, giving her the sixth double-double on the season. On the next play, she scored to put Syracuse up 61-42 with 3:57 remaining.
Syracuse returns home to face Pittsburgh (11-16, 3-10 ACC) for Senior Day in the Carrier Dome on Sunday. With a victory, the Orange would clinch a winning conference record in the first year in the ACC.