The No. 24 Syracuse Orange’s 10th win of the season was somewhat difficult to come by, but Coach Quentin Hillsman’s bunch found a way to avenge last year’s 62-61 loss to the Drexel Dragons on Saturday at the Carrier Dome. The Orange escaped with a 72-62 win and earned its tenth win in ten tries this season.
Was this a sort of a revenge game for the Orange?
“Absolutely was… Definitely was,” Coach Q said after the game. “They beat us at their place. They closed the game. It was about defending our home court.”
The Dragons’ early game plan focused through the paint. The first quarter resulted in a 19-15 Drexel lead, with 12 of those points coming through the paint. The Dragons bench scored 11 points in the quarter, as well. Syracuse held an 8-4 lead at one point in the first quarter, and their last lead through the quarter was when they lead 11-10.
“We weren’t worried about points in the paint,” Coach Q said. “We were worried about three-point shooting. We were not going to give them three-point shots. That was the game plan – get them off the three-point line and get them in the paint.”
Tiana Mangakahia made a three-pointer with 4:30 to play until half, and that’s when Syracuse regained the lead at 31-28. Drexel then went on an 13-2 run from that point to end the half. The Dragons led 41-33, their largest lead to that point, twenty minutes into the contest.
Drexel’s second quarter strategy worked mainly outside. Dragons guard Megan Marecic caught fire in the quarter. The senior from Pittsburgh led the Dragons at the half with 15 points on 5-6 three-pointers. Drexel doubled Syracuse’s output in the paint, 20-10, and their bench outscored Syracuse’s, 27-8, in the first half.
Syracuse struggled offensively in the first half. They shot 38.1% through the first 15 minutes, halfway through the second quarter, compared to Drexel’s 54.2%. Drexel’s lead increased to 4 at one point through the quarter. Despite Syracuse’s offensive struggles, the Orange were not totally out of it quite yet.
The Orange returned to the floor in a strong fashion and completely flipped the script in the second half. They went on a 7-0 run through the first 3:05 to cut Drexel’s lead to 41-40. From that point, Syracuse finished the quarter with a 54-49 lead. The Orange outscored Drexel 21-8 and quelled Drexel’s Marecic to just two points in the quarter.
“We were losing (Marecic) a bit when were getting matched up in the first half,” Coach Q said. “In the second half, we were keeping her in front (of us).”
The Orange shot 53.8% in the fourth quarter, outscored Drexel 18-13, and broke through for a 10-point win. How fitting, for a 10th straight win.
Digna Strautmane finished with a double-double effort for the Orange. She contributed 19 points and 11 rebounds to the Orange effort. Five players finished in double figures, all eclipsing that mark in the second half.
Miranda Drummond added 17 points and 8 rebounds in a team-high 37 minutes. Tiana Mangakahia contributed a double-double of 16 points and 10 assists.
“Things were working for us in the second half,” Mangakahia said. “Shots were dropping, so that was one of the main things that helped us.”
“I was putting more effort into getting the ball,” Strautmane said. “Everybody started to play real hard, so I pushed myself. I knew (Drexel was) physical.”
Syracuse is off to a perfect 10-0 start. Its first since 2009-2010 when they started 12-0. The Orange would finish that season 25-11 and lose to Michigan in the quarterfinal round of the Women’s NIT.
Syracuse (10-0) will enjoy a 7-day layoff before traveling to Myrtle Beach to face Coastal Carolina (5-4) in the Carolinas Challenge. Tip is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on December 17.
Syracuse has three non-conference games left on its schedule before ACC conference play starts on December 28 at Notre Dame. One of those contests includes a Duel in the Desert clash versus Mississippi State – the current No. 6 team in the country.
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Corey Crisan is the Orange Women’s Basketball reporter for TNIAAM. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cdcrisan for coverage all season long.