The ladies took care of business on Friday and Sunday, earning a well-deserved spot in the Sweet 16 round. They did so because of a total team effort on both ends of the floor in each game. Ten players made a contribution over the course of the two days, so I think it's safe to say that this team is deep.
Three of those players truly helped propel their teammates to greater heights: junior guard Alexis Peterson, redshirt-junior guard Brittney Sykes, and junior center Briana Day. Sykes and Peterson tallied 83 points alone over the two-game stretch while Briana grabbed 18 total rebounds to keep the Black Knights and Great Danes at bay.
Against Army, Peterson had a stretch at the beginning of the game in which she scored 10-straight points without a bucket by the Black Knights. You read that right: she created her very own 10-0 run for the Orange. When you have a player that can do that, it motivates everyone around them because it sets the tone.
This was no exception.
Day and Sykes did a great job at setting screens to get Peterson open looks. Peterson used her speed and height to her advantage, dribbling past Army's guards and out of their reach to get into the lane. She also had quick hands. On one play in the first quarter, Peterson almost lost the ball, but she was able to grab it as it rolled up her defender's chest and back into her arms. She hit all 13 of her free-throws as well.
In addition to her offensive prowess, Peterson proved just as valuable on defence. She and Sykes were a swarming menace in Syracuse's full-court press set, drawing two 10-counts in the first quarter.
Day was able to use her tall stature to create space for her teammates on the offensive end of the ball. Her 12 rebounds helped the Orange build a very comfortable lead over the Black Knights, the kind where they never had to look back.
Though she only scored 13 points, Sykes was extremely active in the paint and inside the arc, giving her team room to breathe during their field goal attempts. Her long arms gave her the ability to grab a few boards along the way, as well.
In their Second Round game versus Albany, it took almost a full quarter because of sloppy play, but we saw much of the same.
Once Peterson got going,she racked up 22 points on the day. She was given several open looks from outside the arc, and muscled her way into the paint.
Sykes had a breakout performace, channeling her prolific scoring from her true sophomore season, before her ACL injuries. It was the most points she had scored since tallying 31 against Virginia Tech on February 6th, 2014. She added five steals on the defensive side of the ball.
Briana's twin sister Bria saw an increase in action, as she had 10 rebounds and two blocks on the day. Briana ended up with six.
These ladies, though not the highest on the stat sheet, made valuable contributions in both games and were still keys to the team's dominance.
Briana Butler: Senior Guard
While she hasn't scored many points so far in the Tournament, Butler made up for it by being active on the boards. She had 10 rebounds against Army and three assists versus Albany. If Syracuse wants to advance past upcoming opponent South Carolina, though, it'll be to the team's benefit if she finds her stroke again.
Maggie Morrison: Redshirt-Senior Guard
The spotty scorer stepped up when her team needed her most against Albany. She scored 11 points, including three treys. It was the first time she had scored in double-digits since the Clemson game on February 4th though she came close with nine on February 11th against Virginia.
Cornelia Fondren: Senior Guard
Fondren scored 13 points, including 10 against Army, had a total of nine rebounds, three steals, two blocks, and three assists. The broadcasting team on Friday called her a "wild card" player because she can be totally locked-in or a sort of afterthought. She'll need to find her sweet spot if Syracuse hopes to be successful against South Carolina.
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The Orange will look to avenge last year's losses to South Carolina this Friday at 7 pm E.T., their most memorable when the Gamecocks knocked them out in their second round game of last year's Tournament.