Quentin Hillsman stood motionless on the sideline for one moment during the second half, with his usual dynamic demeanor replaced with a grimace.
For the first time all season, his team couldn't handle an unranked opponent. It left Hillsman with nothing to say, until after the game, when he called Syracuse's 85-71 defeat to Miami the team's worst game of the season.
"We didn't play well," Hillsman said. "It's the first game I think we lost because we didn't play well. There were other games that we lost that we had solid games, but just lost to some teams that had some really good players who could make some plays."
Hillsman didn't react after watching Suriya McGuire's second half layup, a high-percentage shot from Miami on a night that was full of them. McGuire streaked down the right baseline, beat Brianna Butler to the rim and guided the ball in the basket while drawing a foul.
It was part of a Hurricanes run midway through the second half that expanded their ten point intermission lead to 17.
"We're a team that prides ourselves on defense and we gave up a lot of shots and a lot of easy, easy baskets," point guard Alexis Peterson said. "But it's all things that can be corrected. Yes, it's one of our worst defensive games, but it's all something we can change and we can fix moving forward."
Peterson scored 21 points, while Brianna Butler had 19 to continue a recent resurgence. But it wasn't nearly enough offense for Syracuse, which gave up its second highest point total all season. Miami took advantage of SU's uncharacteristically poor post defense by scoring 44 points in the paint. With center Briana Day saddled with foul trouble throughout the night, all Hillsman could do was watch.
"There's no way you can win a game when you're giving up 44 points in the paint like that and expect to come out on top," Hillsman said. "That's not a formula to win basketball games."
The Orange came into the night with a 16-0 record against teams outside the top 25, but had no answer for the blistering attack from the Hurricanes offense.
Syracuse thrives off forcing turnovers, but made just as many mistakes (16) as Miami. It was only the third time this season that the Orange hasn't won the turnover battle. The Hurricanes dealt with Hillsman's press by going with a four-guard lineup that included two point guards, head coach Katie Meier explained after the game. It allowed the 'Canes to keep an even turnover differential with Syracuse, who leads the ACC in that category.
"It makes us have to work ten times harder," Peterson said. "We're known for turning teams over. If they're not turning the ball over, it makes us kind of adjust and kind of change our scheme a little bit."