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Peterson's 32 Powers Syracuse Past Wake Forest in Win

Alexis Peterson put on a show and the Orange (12-5, 2-2) prevailed in an entertaining, back-and-forth contest in the Carrier Dome.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Alexis Peterson burst out in excitement while sitting on the ground, pumping her fists and then slapping the Carrier Dome court on which she had dominated on all night.

Peterson knocked down a midrange jumper, even after a Demon Deacon defender knocked her down with a slight nudge from behind, as she was going up for the shot.

Somehow, she managed to make the shot and the ensuing free throw, a play that merited her loud on-court celebration. At that point, she had scored her team's last eight points, expanding Syracuse's two point lead to eight with just 59 seconds left to play.

The sophomore point guard scored a career-high 32 points, guiding the Orange to a 73-62 victory over Wake Forest in the Carrier Dome.  It was a pretty simple formula for No. 25/24 Syracuse: play stingy defense inside, work hard on the offensive glass and find Peterson whenever possible.

"This was the best point guard performance in my nine years here, by far," head coach Quentin Hillsman said.  "It ain't even close."

For most of the game, Peterson's dominant play gave Syracuse a substantial lead.  When Wake went on a late run to get within one possession, it was Peterson who, again, bailed out the Orange offense.

"You have a game that just comes down to who's going to make a play and who's not," Hillsman said.  "I think that our best player stepped up tonight and made plays."

The Orange built up its early lead, in large part because the Demon Deacons missed their first 11 shot attempts of the game.  Syracuse's press defense confused Wake, whose first field goal wasn't until the 9:56 mark in the first half.  By then, the Orange led 15-5.

"I'm not sure why we started out cold," Wake coach Jen Hoover said.  "Maybe because we're in the north.  We had not had that kind of start in the last three games in the ACC."

Perhaps, the main reason for Syracuse's shutdown defense early on was Briana Day, who registered six of her seven blocks in the first half.  She had blocks on back-to-back possessions late in the half, which helped Syracuse go to intermission with an eight point lead.

Twice, the agile Milan Quinn thought she beat Day to a spot on the right side of the hoop, but twice she was rejected by the quick, long right arm of Syracuse's 6-foot-4 center.

"I usually don't block because they always call a foul," Day said, with her usual folksy tone.  "But I guess tonight, they just were my friends.  They let me just play basketball so I guess that's what it was."

And Syracuse's aggressiveness on the glass on the other end of the court also contributed to its early success.  The Orange collected 28 offensive rebounds, the second highest total of the season.  The only time that Syracuse had more was when it had 37 during a blowout win over Canisius.

The Orange took advantage with 21 second chance points, as its forwards excelled at distributing the ball back out to the exterior.  After Taylor Ford grabbed her own miss, she was pressured by a pair of Demon Deacons hovering over her.  But Ford carefully curled a bounce pass around two defenders and into the hands of Peterson, who drained a three, then her third of the game.

Peterson's 32 points was the most by a Syracuse player since Kayla Alexander scored 34 on March 10, 2013.  But Peterson, who was flanked by Day and Ford at the press table, was quick to credit her teammates for her monster night.

"I came out and played with a lot of confidence.  My teammates really keep me motivated, keep me going.  They're my biggest fans and I love them to death.  A night like them doesn't happen if I don't have these players around me."

But, it was just the opposite. Peterson scored so many because she's now Syracuse's best option without Brittney Sykes and the team was happy to stand by and watch her take over a game as she did with this one.

While Peterson doled out the accolades, Hillsman gave Peterson all the credit for the win, the team's second in a row.

"If she's not at Syracuse University tonight, we lose," Hillsman said.  "Period."