When you’re at home facing a team that barely has a .500 record and has one conference win through January, the recipe for success should write itself. That was proven the case for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team on Thursday versus Clemson. With Thursday’s convincing victory, Syracuse remained perfect at home in the 2017-2018 season, advancing its record to 11-0 in the Carrier Dome.
“Getting back to .500 versus conference opponents is huge,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said after the game. “Any time you can take care of business at home, that’s very important. Hopefully we can move on and take care of some games on the road.”
Syracuse stormed ahead in the first quarter and didn’t give Clemson many chances to spark a comeback. The Orange opened the game with leads of 14-2, 16-4, and 19-6. Clemson forward Kobi Thornton scored 10 of the Tigers’ 16 points in the first quarter.
Thornton was held to 10 additional points in the final three quarters, including four in the second half.
“We actually went to defend her efforts,” Orange forward Amaya Finklea-Guity said after the game. “She’s overall just a really great player. She can jump really high; she’s really aggressive. I think once we were able to stop her like that, that helped a lot with how we were playing defense (on her) overall.”
Syracuse’s full-court press and 2-3 zone through the entire game was enough to limit Clemson offensively. Clemson committed 21 turnovers in Thursday’s game.
“You can make your own mistakes (and) turn the ball over,” Syracuse guard Tiana Mangakahia said. “Definitely, the half-court pressure... On the ball, denying passes, and being scrappy and getting on the ball.”
Clemson made 7-of-20 shots from the field and Syracuse forced four Tiger turnovers in the first quarter. The Orange paced the game with a 26-10 lead after 10 minutes.
Syracuse re-gained a 10-point lead with 28 seconds remaining in the first quarter and did not look back. Aside from failing to stop Thornton and her scoring early on, the Orange executed in virtually every facet of the box score. Clemson was not able to work from outside as the Tigers attempted just three shots from beyond the arc in the half, and four total for the game. Syracuse attempted more field goals (38) than Clemson did shots (36) in the half. Syracuse led 45-31 before exploding in the third quarter.
Essentially, stopping Kobi Thornton from setting up on the low blocks was the key for Orange success versus the Tigers. Syracuse did so and Clemson couldn’t convert many shots into points outside of the paint. Clemson finished with 36 points in the paint and made just one shot from three-point range on Thursday.
“The kids really kept the pressure up,” Coach Q said. “We sped them up... We got a lot of turnovers back in the halfcourt. Once you speed them up and they can’t run their offense, you really start to reap the benefits of your pressure. More than anything, we wanted to create pace and create opportunities in transition, and our pressure really did that.”
Four Syracuse starters were scoring in double-figures by the third quarter’s media timeout. Syracuse went on two separate 9-0 runs and one 8-0 run in the third. Syracuse led by a wholesome 32 points at the end of the quarter.
The Orange continued to clamp down on Clemson, surrendering just eight points to the Tigers in the fourth quarter. Syracuse padded onto its lead in the fourth thanks to at least one converted basket from seven different players, securing an 86-51 statement victory. Syracuse never trailed Clemson and they led by double digits for more than three quarters.
Syracuse has been successful inside the Carrier Dome this season, but they have not won a road conference game yet. Coach Q eluded to this win as a confidence boost for the Orange to go do so on Sunday at Boston College.
“Let’s hope so,” Q said. “We play really good on the road in our league... This is a great conference. When you look at the conference RPIs and the bracketology, we have eight teams in the tournament... It’s so tough on the road when you have really good teams playing at home.”
Quite honestly, we have not seen this bad of a Syracuse beatdown on a Clemson team since October.
Syracuse (16-5, 4-4 ACC) will travel over the weekend to face Boston College. Tip is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on Sunday. The Orange return home on Thursday February 1 to face Virginia Tech.
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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.