It was the team’s first home game since December 17 against Niagara, and the team’s third straight win to begin conference play (and eighth straight overall). The victory improves Syracuse to 14-2 (3-0) on the year, while UNC drops to 9-8 (0-3).
You saw what type of game it was going to be from the first quarter, when Syracuse jumped out to a 32-25 lead. The advantage grew in the second quarter and SU was up 56-37 at the break. They were able to coast, for the most part, from there while scoring 90 points for the first time since that last home contest against Niagara.
The Orange hit 46.5 percent of their shots on the day, and 51.2 percent in the first half. After starting hot from three (12-of-21), they cooled down and missed the last seven. Carolina shot a respectable-ish 40.9 percent on the game — though the comeback was sort of thwarted by a 7-for-24 effort from outside.
Syracuse was led once again by Tiana Mangakahia, who had a season-high 34 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field. She was 4-of-6 from three and 10-of-11 from the line. Mangakahia added 10 rebounds and 10 assists to record the first triple-double of her career, and the fourth in Orange program history.
“I’m glad we got (Mangakahia) because I can tell you right now she’s a tough guard,” Coach Quentin Hillsman said after the game. “She can make shots, she plays off the bounce, she finds cutters, she finds open players and she’s just an amazing point guard.”
Amazing is right, following what was perhaps her most impressive effort with the Orange (no small feat considering she scored 44 against Georgia Tech last season).
Just two other Syracuse players scored in double-digits during Sunday’s game: Digna Strautmane had 14 points to go with four rebounds. Miranda Drummond had 13 points and four steals. SU forced 10 turnovers and scored 19 points off of those.
Despite the loss, four UNC players scored 16 or more points, led by Paris Kea with 22. Taylor Koenen had a double-double with 21 points and 11 boards, while Janelle Bailey and Stephanie Watts each had 16. Just one other Heels player scored at all. Comparatively, eight Orange players had at least four points.
Syracuse heads back on the road for the next two games, at Pitt on January 17 and at Georgia Tech on January 20. The Panthers are 9-8 on the year (0-3 in the ACC), and Georgia Tech is 12-5 (2-2). There’s a real shot that the Orange can win the next five games overall (they’ll be favored in all of them) before a huge road game at No. 2 Louisville on February 7.