The Syracuse women’s basketball team snapped a two-game ACC losing streak by defeating the Pittsburgh Panthers (9-11, 1-6) at the Carrier Dome on Sunday. The Orange won a 70-52 game thanks to an all-around scoring and rebounding effort from its starters. Syracuse also remains a perfect 10-0 at home on the season. With Sunday’s win, the Orange are 23-1 at the Carrier Dome dating back to the start of last season.
Gabby Cooper was the lone returning starter to Coach Quentin Hillsman’s starting lineup at the beginning of the season. Since, she has noticeably taken a backseat in Q’s offense, particularly to Tiana Mangakahia and Miranda Drummond. Cooper proved on Sunday that she can and should be the third scoring option for Syracuse. Cooper made 4-of-10 three pointers, all makes in the first half, en route to being one of four starters to net double-figures, leading Syracuse (15-5, 3-4 ACC) to a home win in front of a Carrier Dome crowd of 8,126 fans.
Dome, Sweet Dome
“It’s good to come into The Dome and have a great crowd,” Coach Q said after the game. “We definitely had (a) home-court advantage in this game. We played tough on the road and were losing games here and there, but I thought they did a good job of bouncing back today and playing hard.”
The players also recognized the importance of having a true home-court advantage against a conference foe.
“It helps us a lot,” Mangakahia said. “Going to away games, and seeing their fans, and coming here and we usually don’t get a lot. It’s very disappointing, but tonight was great. It helps a lot... The adrenaline is there.”
Cooper re-iterated Mangakahia’s point, but with some simplified context.
“People are mean,” Cooper said. “They say a lot of mean things that will get in your head, and you have to try and not let it get to you. When we’re at home, you don’t have to worry about it... It helps your confidence and helps you play better.”
Cleaning the Glass
Syracuse and Pittsburgh traded buckets early, resulting in a 10-9 Orange lead into the under-5:00 timeout in the first quarter. Gabby Cooper opened the scoring by draining a three pointer, but Pitt’s Kyla Nelson responded with a three of her own immediately after. Following a Pitt bucket, ‘Cuse went on an 8-0 run before Pitt called a timeout with 1:33 left in the quarter. Syracuse finished the first quarter on a 10-0 run and led 22-13.
The Orange have struggled in the rebounding department lately, surrendering 46 each to Miami on Thursday and to NC State last weekend. Syracuse lost the rebounding battle in both games, but that wasn’t the case versus the Panthers. The Orange cleaned up on the glass, gathering 47 rebounds, including a whopping 17 boards on the offensive end.
“Shooting 1-for-14 in the third quarter... That’s a lot of rebounds to get,” Q said. “We were able to get to the free throw line, and that was from getting rebounds and getting put-back opportunities.”
Syracuse held a 34-24 lead halfway through the second quarter, largely due to consistent ball movement and continued success off the glass. Amaya Finklea-Guity and Digna Strautmane each gathered four rebounds, and Cooper finished with six boards by the halfway mark. Syracuse carried a 44-31 lead as Cooper led the Orange with 12 points into the break.
Cooper started hot for the Orange, making 3-of-4 three pointers to start the game.
“That always helps my confidence,” Cooper said. “When I’m off, I try not to let it bother me. (But) when I’m making shots, (it) helps me focus on the rest.”
Finklea-Guity and Mangakahia began the scoring for either side in the third with successful jumpers, and Syracuse began to pull further ahead from Pitt. The Orange led 53-34 as Pitt called a timeout with 6:34 remaining in the third.
Syracuse held two separate, 19-point leads through the quarter as they converted a total of 10 three-point field goals through the end of the quarter. Syracuse led comfortably, 62-47, at the end of the third, with Miranda Drummond being the only Orange player to not score in double-figures at the time.
Pitt went on a 5-0 run briefly in the fourth. It was a 5:48 scoring drought for Syracuse that ended with a layup from Amaya Finklea-Guity with 3:17 to play in regulation.
Syracuse’s large lead built in the third proved insurmountable. Syracuse played keep-away from Pitt for the final four minutes of the game to secure a 70-52 win.
Miranda Drummond was the only starter that did not score in double-figures. She finished with eight points, while Mangakahia and Finklea-Guity paced the Orange with 14 points each. Cooper and Strautmane each scored 12 points.
Syracuse will stay home and welcome Clemson (11-9, 1-6 ACC) into the Carrier Dome on Thursday. Tip is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. EST. The Orange will hit the road to face Boston College in Chestnut Hill, MA on Sunday.
Follow the Author
Corey Crisan is the Orange Women’s Basketball reporter for TNIAAM. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @cdcrisan for coverage all season long.