Our friend Hoya Suxa shared an interesting dialogue on Monday regarding the Syracuse basketball programs and their win projections for the rest of the 2017-2018 regular season. Some argued at the beginning of the season that the women’s program would win more games than the men would. You should head over there (after reading this, of course) and check out the data.
Back on Track
The Syracuse women’s basketball team earned a needed win on Sunday versus Pittsburgh. After losing two straight road games to NC State and Miami, the Orange needed a boost from its home crowd. Over 8,100 people filed into the Carrier Dome on Sunday and the Orange embraced a real home-court advantage for the first time this season.
“That was very fun and very exciting,” reigning ACC Rookie of the Week Amaya Finklea-Guity said on Tuesday. “Everybody came in with a good energy. It was an overall positive atmosphere (and) vibe. It was really fun to play in that game. We came in (versus Pitt) knowing we had to bounce back from that loss and try to crash the boards offensively and defensively... just have a bigger presence than we had the last couple of games.”
Finklea-Guity earned the ACC Rookie of the Week honors for her performances versus Miami and Pittsburgh.
“I’m completely honored and shocked, actually, to receive that award,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. I’m really humble about it and I just want to continue to work hard now.”
Finklea-Guity posted a line of 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 assists on Sunday in the Orange’s 70-52 win versus Pitt. She and point guard Tiana Mangakahia led ‘Cuse with 14 points each.
“Amaya is being put into positions to where she has to come out and play 40 minutes for us,” Syracuse Assistant Coach Vonn Read told the media. “We don’t have a whole lot of subs and backups, and sometimes, they kind of want to come out of the game... They’re in the fire. They gotta get out there and get it done for us, and I think she’s doing a good job of that.”
The biggest question mark for Syracuse surrounded the replacing of four starters, particularly two scoring threats as top scorers Alexis Peterson and Brittney Sykes departed for the WNBA. That question appears to be resolved with the expedited progressions of transfers Tiana Mangakahia and Miranda Drummond. The Orange have at least two players who can create their own shots, but is there a third scoring option available for the Orange?
In Syracuse’s 15 wins to date, Mangakahia and Drummond have each recorded 13 games of double-digit scoring. By far, that number is the most of any starters. Following those two, the Orange have looked for that consistent third scoring option.
Sophomore guard Gabby Cooper scored in double-figures in eight of those wins, and has posted 11 of those outings overall in 20 games. Could she be Head Coach Quentin Hillsman’s third option?
Tale of the Tape
Cooper has scored more than 10 points in four of Syracuse’s last five games, her top outing being Sunday versus Pitt. This is not the first of such a streak from Cooper this season. In fact, it’s her third. From December 9 through December 22, Cooper posted four straight double-digit efforts, including her season-high 24 points against Coastal Carolina. She also scored at least 10 in three-of-four games ranging from November 20 through November 25.
Cooper has mostly been a catch-and-shoot threat for the Orange. She’s a sniper from beyond the arc, attempting nearly eight shots beyond the arc and per game and has converted 33.1% of those shots this season. Compared to almost 11 field goal attempts per game, that sparks intrigue about Cooper strictly being a perimeter player. She may be the Orange’s third-best scorer, but is she the best option behind Mangakahia and Drummond to create her own looks?
The Orange are 5-1 when FInklea-Guity scores at least 10 points, so that might be an interesting nugget to keep track of as we head into the final stretch of games. At worst, she and forward Digna Strautmane are viable options to create opportunities in the post. If Cooper or leading bench scorer Isis Young cannot find their grooves in any given game, Syracuse should have the ability to work offense through either. Based on her recent play, Finklea-Guity might be the fourth or the “3-B” option.
Behind the statistical 3-A option Gabby Cooper, Finklea-Guity and Strautmane have tabbed five games in double-figures in Syracuse victories. Coach Vonn Read believes Cooper has earned the right to be that third option.
“It’ll just come as it happens,” Read noted. “I think Gabby has established herself as a double-figure scorer for us. She was a veteran for us last year, and (she) played really well. We did have a lot more balance this game (against Pitt)... I think that’s probably going to be our best formula going forward.”
Gabby played alongside Peterson and Sykes last season as a freshman, and Read believes she can step up and use what she learned from the former ‘Cuse greats.
“Last year, we had the ‘big three’,” Read continued. “With Briana Day, Petey, and Britt, and she played behind those kids. Now, she’s having to come out and establish herself as being that third scorer behind us. I think she’s averaging double-figures for us right now. She’s shooting the ball pretty well for us this year.”
Breaking (a) Seal
Syracuse (15-5, 3-4 ACC) will host Clemson on Thursday. With a win, the Orange would advance its record at the Carrier Dome to 11-0 this season. Syracuse would also improve its home record dating back to the start of last season to 24-1. The ORange have not lost at The Dome since February 19, 2017 versus then-No.7 Notre Dame.
All three of Syracuse’s conference wins in 2017-2018 have come at home, including an upset win over No. 12 Florida State. The Orange will get another crack at a road conference opponent this Sunday at Boston College.
“For our kids, we’re such an inexperienced team,” Read said. “We’re one of the youngest teams in the country, by far. Until they get that (first road win), they’ll have the confidence to be able to break through to say, ‘Okay, we can do this,’ It’s just demonstrating the ability to do it.”
From the Source
Hear the rest of Coach Read’s thoughts from Tuesday’s media session after practice.
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.