Sunday was almost super for the Syracuse Orange versus one of women’s college basketball’s best teams. The Orange fell to Louisville, 84-77, in an up and down Sunday matinee pinked-out game.
Orange come up short in their upset bid against No. 4 Louisville pic.twitter.com/vwToDhQXCD— 'Cuse Women's Hoops (@CuseWBB) February 4, 2018
“The kids played hard,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said after the game. “At the end of the day, you had a great opportunity on your home floor to beat a very good team... We had some opportunities... Overall, I thought our kids played hard.”
Syracuse’s Digna Strautmane set the tone at the beginning with her three-point shooting. Strautmane scored six of Syracuse’s 12 points to open the game. Through the first media timeout, Syracuse led 16-12 after hitting 7-of-9 shots to open the game.
Strautmane continued her recent dominance on Sunday versus the Cardinals. The Latvian freshman finished with her third straight 20+ point game as she netted 22 points.
The Orange and Cardinals kept it neck-and-neck throughout the first quarter. After three ties and nine lead changes, the Orange held a 23-21 lead after ten minutes. That would be the final lead the Orange held throughout the game.
Syracuse out-rebounded the Cardinals by four, and the Orange made two-thirds of their shots in the first, including two of their four attempts from beyond the arc. Either team possessed the ball over 20 times in the quarter.
Shook, not Shaken
Louisville got a much-needed boost in the second quarter thanks to reserve forward Kylee Shook and reserve guard Sydney Zambrotta. Syracuse started the quarter on a 3:20-long scoring drought. Louisville used that drought to start the quarter on a 6-0 run, with Shook scoring all six points. Syracuse ended the drought when Strautmane converted a jumper to cut Louisville’s lead to 27-25 with just over 6:30 to play in the half.
Zambrotta picked up the slack for the Cardinals in the second, scoring all eight of her points in the quarter. Zambrotta made all three of her attempted shots, including two converted three pointers.
“The five minutes (Shook) played was as aggressive as she has been at the offensive end,” Louisville head coach Jeff Walz said. “She played strong, she finished around the basket. (Zambrotta) made some shots. She made a huge shot at the end of the first half... Overall, our bench has been getting better in practice.”
Syracuse cooled down offensively in the second. After making two-thirds of their shot attempts in the first, Syracuse shot just 35.7% from the field. Louisville began to capitalize on Orange miscues, particularly on the glass.
Louisville picked up its effort on the boards in the second. The Cardinals finished the half with one more rebound than the Orange, securing a +5 margin in the second. Louisville led 40-35 at the half.
Louisville wasted no time in pulling away from Syracuse in the third quarter. Cardinals forward Myisha Hines-Allen converted a jumper and guard Asia Durr hit a corner three to extend their lead to ten points through the first 1:09 of the quarter.
The Orange started the quarter 2-8 from the field, both buckets coming from Tiana Mangakahia. Mangakahia made a layup and one and then followed with a three pointer to cut Louisville’s lead to eight at the time.
Walz had high praises for the Orange point guard following Sunday’s game.
“She is fun to watch,” Walz commented after the game. “If you’re a basketball fan in this city... If you don’t come out here to watch her, shame on you. I have no idea where there’s not 5,000 people, 6,000 people, in this place every day watching that kid play. She is spectacular.”
But despite the high praises and the double-double effort from Mangakahia, she was responsible for 10 of Syracuse’s 15 turnovers on Sunday. She noted after the game that Louisville did the little things correctly to force so many turnovers.
Louisville used a 21-9 run through the first seven minutes of the third quarter to pull away from the Orange. Louisville outscored the Orange, 26-16 in the third. To put this in a clearer perspective, Syracuse scored a combined 28 points in the second and third quarters.
A Fighting Fourth?
After a solid start in the first, the rest of the day was not Syracuse’s. Syracuse made a comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Cardinals 26-18, but Louisville’s lead proved insurmountable. The Cardinals eventually pulled away enough, earning a 84-77 win after cleaning up on the glass and from heating up in the third quarter.
Syracuse (17-7, 5-6 ACC) will enjoy a week-long break before hitting the court again. They will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. for a conference showdown versus Wake Forest. The Orange do not return to play in the Carrier Dome until Thursday February 15 versus No. 19/18 Duke.
“It’s always good to have some time off,” Q said about his team’s layover. “We’re looking forward to some rest, but we’re also looking forward to getting into the gym and to improve and get ready for this stretch run.
Syracuse has five regular season games remaining on its 2017-2018 schedule.
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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.