clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Syracuse Goes For Redemption Against Top Seeded South Carolina in Round of 32

The Syracuse women's basketball team faces South Carolina on Sunday against a team who beat the Orange back in November.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Brianna Butler doesn't remember the first 30-plus minutes of the game as much as the last few.

That's when the Orange blew a ten-point lead to then top-ranked South Carolina and gave away a chance at the program's first win over the No. 1 team in the country.  The Orange couldn't make a field goal in the last six minutes and 43 seconds of the game and lost, 67-63, in the championship of the Junkanoo Jam back in late November.

Four months later, it's a loss that still stings Syracuse.

"That’s definitely something that kind of dwelled on us throughout the season," Butler said.

When the bracket was released, Syracuse couldn't help but look past the opening round a little bit and salivate at a possible Round of 32 matchup against South Carolina. By beating Nebraska, the Orange earned that rematch and a chance at revenge for the win that got away.

"I think that’s a redemption thing," sophomore center Briana Day said.  "We lost to them by only four."

The Orange looks to reach its first ever Sweet Sixteen, but faces a big challenge by going up against South Carolina in Columbia on Sunday night.  If Syracuse is able to pull off the upset, it will be the first time all season that the Gamecocks lose a game at home.  It's a daunting challenge that has overwhelmed opponents this year, but excites Quentin Hillsman.  He said his team has grown from its neutral site loss to South Carolina and other close games against tough competition.

"That’s why you do this," Hillsman said.  "You coach to compete.  If you don’t have that in you, then you shouldn’t be in this sport."

The Gamecocks come in having won nine of their last ten games and having only lost twice all season.

One loss came against UConn, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.  The other was to Kentucky, an SEC giant who could be on its way to another deep March run.

But unlike some of the sport's goliaths like Notre Dame and the Huskies who have blown out Syracuse in recent meetings, the Gamecocks are a team that the Orange has proven it can match up well with.

"There’s definitely a comfort level when you’ve already played someone and you know what they can bring to the table and what we can bring to the table against them," Butler said.

In round one against USC, the Orange played like it was the heavyweight by winning the rebounding battles, keeping the Gamecocks out of the paint and shutting down freshman phenom A'ja Wilson in the first half. That effort wasn't rewarded because Syracuse allowed an 18-4 run at the end of the game.

Hillsman has spent the last few days with his team by analyzing what went wrong at the end of that loss and trying to prevent those mistakes, should Syracuse find itself in another close game.

"We didn’t watch the first 38 minutes," Hillsman said. "We watched the last two minutes when we let the game get away."

Syracuse's leading scorer, Alexis Peterson, had just nine points in that game.  It was one of only five times all season when she failed to reach double figure scoring totals. With 31 seconds left in the game, she committed an untimely turnover when the Orange had a chance to get back within one possession.

"It was a tough game when we played South Carolina the first time," Peterson said. "But we were the better team for 38 minutes. We had a mental lapse in the last two minutes."

This time, South Carolina has the advantage of playing in front of its home crowd, which averages the highest attendance in the country.

Winning in Colonial Life Arena is, perhaps, Syracuse's toughest test all season.

But it's one that Peterson said her team is ready for.

"I think we’ve been prepared all season," Peterson said.  "We haven’t had an easy schedule. We faced a lot of adversity in the season with injuries and just playing the best teams in the country so this is what we live for."

She added, "This is what the tournament is about."