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Syracuse women’s basketball battles, but falls to No. 1 Oregon, 81-64

The upset was possible for a bit on Sunday.

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - Second Round - Syracuse Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team looked ready to fight right from the get-go in this one.

The No. 1 ranked Oregon Ducks jumped out to a 6-0 lead and the Orange faithful were left standing and clapping for almost three minutes before Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi had back to back buckets to make it a 6-4 game. Satou Sabally was hot for Oregon from the jump, as she ended up accounting for 12 of her teams 15 1st quarter points.

Syracuse wouldn’t allow this one to get away from them, however. Emily Engstler, KIara Lewis and Digna Stautmane made shots on consecutive possessions to tie the game at 9. Another Lewis three would make it a 12-9 game, and the Orange would lead 12-11 going into the first media timeout. Djaldi-Tabdi would sink another three for the Orange and would go into the first break tied at 15 with the Ducks. The most important stat from the first quarter however, Sabrina Ionescu, reigning player of the year, scored zero points in the first quarter.

Syracuse came out firing in the second quarter. Kiara Lewis knocked down three consecutive shots from behind the arc, and the Orange were up 24-15 with 8:18 left in the quarter. Oregon, a team that has been red hot to start the season from the field in their previous three games, looked absolutely lost on offense. The Syracuse zone was long and active, and the Ducks were getting up bad, contested shots. Ionescu wouldn’t score until 5:27 mark of the second quarter when she went 1-2 at the line.

Oregon started to find their groove on offense halfway through the second frame, as Erin Boley knocked down her second three of the game to make it 26-23 Orange. An Emily Engstler three would bring Syracuse back up 6, but this was followed by a long scoring draught for Syracuse. Oregon would tie the game at 29 then take the lead with two free throws from Satou Sabally, who ended the half with 14 points. To end the half Kiara Lewis went 1-2 at the line to make it just a one point game at halftime, 31-30 Ducks. Syracuse was 5-19 from the field in the second.

The Ducks came out in the third on a mission. Their pace of play seemed to run down the Orange as Syracuse did everything they could just to stay in it. Boley stayed hot from beyond the arc and the offense was what we were more accustomed to seeing from the Ducks. Syracuse would try to hang tough though. With 47 seconds left in the quarter, Kiara Lewis knocked down two free throws to make it a 9 point game, as Oregon led 55-46. Sataou Sabally was everywhere defensively and offensively for the Ducks, getting steals and sinking shots to widen the gap. To end the quarter, Sabrina Ionescu hit one from the Carrier logo (sorry) and made this a 62-46 game going into the final frame. The best team in the country looked like it in the third. They shot 12-20 and knocked down 5 from beyond the arc. They scored 31 points in the third quarter, the same amount they scored in the first half.

The fourth was more of the same as Sabally started off the frame with a three to push the Duck lead to 19. Syracuse looked gassed. Coach Q was upset with the refs all day, and received a technical foul at the 6:13 mark of the quarter. Technically it was on the Syracuse bench, but his jumping up and down over a non-call is what caused the foul. Ionescu took 5 total points from the technical foul, as she sank both free throws and made an old fashioned three to push the lead to 71-51 in her favor.

Syracuse would keep fighting however, as their starters remained in and were still pretty efficient offensively. With 3:50 left in the quarter Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi continued her great game with back to back good post moves in the paint, making it a 75-59 game. The average margin of victory for the Ducks this season before this game was 45, so for Syracuse to be this competitive says a lot about the preparation and skill of this team. Sabrina Ionescu was worth the price of admission, as she was able to do whatever she wanted in the fourth quarter of this one.

The Orange would end up falling by a score of 81-64, but showed a ton of fight and promise. Ionescu ended the game with 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists. Sabally led Oregon with 23 points. This was also her first game of the season. Kiara Lewis also tallied 23 points for the Orange as Djaldi-Tabdi scored 16. As a team, Syracuse shot 35.9% from the floor compared to Oregon’s 43.1%.

Coach Q started his press conference stating that there are no moral victories in this game. Let me be the one to give them a moral “pick me up”. SU looked good in the first half and made Oregon change their game plan for the second, something they didn’t have to do until today. This team will be fun to watch come March.

The Orange will travel up north to Canada next, to play in the Greater Victoria Challenge. The first game is against Houston at 8 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving.