It didn’t take long for Syracuse Orange point guard and 2018 Nancy Lieberman Award Finalist Tiana Manghakahia to re-enter the record books on Sunday. She eclipsed Notre Dame guard Lindsay Allen’s (2017) ACC single-season assists record on the first play of Sunday’s game.
Syracuse controlled the opening tip. Mangakahia found Drummond open on the left wing within 10 seconds for the game’s opening three points, and the record. It was the start of Syracuse’s successful Sunday, as the Orange earned conference win No. 10, a 69-63 triumph over Boston College.
“That’s amazing,” Syracuse women’s basketball head coach Quentin Hillsman remarked about Mangakahia’s record. “It’s almost like you’re speechless. You come in the first year in the best conference in the country, and you break that record. It’s an amazing, amazing feat... It’s something no one can ever take from her. She’s an amazing point guard.”
Mangakahia was humble about the new record.
“It’s a great honor to be the leader of that,” Mangakahia said. “That kind of thing, it comes from everyone on the team: Gabby hitting shots, Miranda hitting shots, Isis (hitting shots). Digna making layups; just, everything. It’s not just about me. Everyone else is contributing to that.”
Three players suited up in Syracuse’s traditional home white jerseys for the final time at the Carrier Dome on Sunday. Jasmine Nwajei, Marisa Romeo, and Abby Grant were recognized before the game in a ceremony.
Grant and Nwajei each knocked down a three pointer for Syracuse in their final home game. Romeo logged one minute of play in the first quarter, but did not register a point.
Syracuse (22-7, 10-6 ACC) head coach Quentin Hillsman reached the second of his provisional “magic numbers” on Sunday, earning his tenth conference win. He sought these benchmarks as the key to not only a fair seeding in the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament, but as a mark for the Orange to be selected for the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.
Those magic numbers: 20 and 10. Make that, 20 total wins and 10 conference wins. Syracuse earned its 20th overall win at Pittsburgh last Monday, and defeating Boston College on Sunday gave ‘Cuse its 10th conference win.
“Once you get 10 in the conference season, you can feel comfortable about the (NCAA) tournament,” Coach Q said. “RPI is good, we have some quality wins... I feel good about where we are. (But) I want to get better. I want a chance to win a National Championship.”
The Orange opened the scoring rather quickly versus Boston College on Sunday. After Mangakahia’s record-breaking assist, Amaya Finklea-Guity netted a layup to give Syracuse a quick 5-0 lead. Boston College did not score its first points until the 6:46 mark in the first, as guard Georgia Pineau drained a mid-range jumper.
After a pair of Andie Anastos free throws for BC, Syracuse went on a 7-0 run to take a 12-4 lead with 4:51 to play in the first. ‘Cuse senior Abby Grant made a three pointer to give the Orange an 8-4 lead. Mangakahia followed on the next position with a three, then Raven Fox made a free throw to round out the run.
Syracuse ended the first quarter with a 19-11 lead.
As Syracuse outscored BC by seven to end the first quarter, the Eagles outscored the Orange, 19-13 in the second.
Syracuse held a 41-32 lead at the 4:41 mark of the quarter. Anastos converted a layup for Boston College to spark a 13-4 Eagles run. Syracuse reserve Isis Young made a free throw, but the Eagles’ Taylor Ortlepp made a three to cut Syracuse’s lead to five.
Pineau followed with a layup conversion, and Ortlepp made another three to tie the game at 42-42. Young responded with her own three on the next possession, but Ortlepp nixed that with another three to round out the scoring in the third quarter.
All of that resulted in a 45-45 tie after 30 minutes of game action.
“We got to give Boston College a lot of credit,” Coach Q said. “They really came in and played tough. They play hard, they’re really an aggressive team, and the half-court defense is really good. They ran some good sets.”
The Orange and the Eagles duked out the fourth quarter to the result of another Syracuse win. Syracuse secured the 69-63 win after Boston College forced them into making free throws to close the game out.
Mangakahia made a layup to start the fourth quarter scoring, giving Syracuse a 47-45 lead. After ‘Cuse reserve Raven Fox made a layup to give Syracuse a four-point lead, Boston College responded to go on a 7-0 run to take a 52-49 lead with 7:00 to play.
Boston College’s lead, the last it held in the game, was short-lived. Syracuse struck for a quick 5-0 run thanks to a pair of Miranda Drummond free throws and a Gabrielle Cooper three-pointer to re-gain the lead to Syracuse with 6:17 to play.
Both teams went silent over the next 2:16, as Mangakahia made a midrange jumper to give Syracuse a four-point lead. BC’s Taylor Ortlepp set a new career-high with her 28 points, and that included a huge three-pointer to cut Syracuse’s lead to one with 3:48 to play. Mangakahia responded going the other way with a converted jumper, but BC’s Georgia Pineau fired right back with her own made jumper. Syracuse led, 58-57, with three minutes to play.
The postseason is here!— 'Cuse Women's Hoops (@CuseWBB) February 25, 2018
We've earned the No. 8 seed to the @accwbb Tournament and will face No. 9 Virginia Tech at 2 pm on Thursday, March 1 at the Greensboro Coliseum. #OrangeCollar pic.twitter.com/3DcEhqhGfv
Gabrielle Cooper converted 4-of-10 shots from three-point range on Sunday, and none came bigger than the one she made with 2:10 to play. Finklea-Guity missed a layup, but Miranda Drummond flew in from the left wing to grab the offensive rebound. She took a couple of dribbles out to the right wing, found Cooper at the top of the key, and dished it off. From about 26 feet, Cooper hit the shot to give Syracuse a 61-57 lead.
Anastos missed a jumper for BC and Finklea-Guity gathered the rebound. going the other way, Mangakahia made a scoop layup to give Syracuse a six-point lead with 1:13 left.
Anastos made a free throw for BC, and the fouling game was on for the Eagles.
Mangakahia made all six of her free throw attempts within the final 20 seconds of the game to ice away the game for the Orange.
Syracuse’s next destination is Greensboro, N.C. for the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament. They earned the No. 8 seed in the conference and will face No. 9 Virginia Tech on Thursday March 1. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST on Thursday.
Syracuse is projected to make the NCAA Tournament. ESPN’s Charlie Creme projected earlier this week that the orange would be selected as a No. 7 seed. That bracket was released before the Orange pulled off road wins at Pitt, North Carolina, and Sunday’s win versus Boston College.
“At some point, you have to go through some adversity to get better,” Coach Q said. “Adversity builds character... For us, we’ve had some adversity in some of these games — some at home, some on the road... Hopefully, we can continue to understand to play tough and play hard.”
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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.