Right from the jump you could tell this was going to be a physical, and very fun game to watch.
Naz Hillmon, the reigning Big Ten player of the year and Syracuse Orange sophomore Emily Engstler was a matchup everyone wanted to see. Even though these two forwards were the two best players on the floor, the two teams had very different objectives early on. Syracuse started out on fire from beyond the arc in the first quarter, going 5-10 while Michigan didn’t even attempt one from beyond the arc. Teisha Hyman went 3-3 from long range and finished the quarter with 9 points. and Michigan made it a point to drive and draw fouls, to get the Syracuse bigs in trouble. 12 of the Wolverines 22 points in the first quarter came from the paint compared to Syracuse’s 6. Michigan would lead after 1, 22-21.
The second quarter started a little sloppy for both teams as turnovers and defensive stops limited the scoring. After a Kiara Lewis and 1 with 5:17 left in the second, the game had already seen 10 lead changes. Syracuse was doing a better job defending in the paint as they forced Michigan to start looking for shots outside the paint, which played right into Syracuse’s gameplan. A Strautmane three would give Syracuse a five point lead, their largest lead of the game to that point at 37-32. Syracuse looked really good defensively to end the half, and they took a 41-36 lead going into the break. Syracuse looked poised to bounce back from last week.
The third quarter would start and remain tight. Syracuse was getting scoring from all around, as Finklea-Guity and Hyman led the Cuse with 9 points, Kiara Lewis had 8, and Gabrielle Cooper had 6 with 6:45 left in the quarter. Syracuse looked like old Syracuse halfway through the third, and that’s a good thing people. Strautmane hit from DEEP, followed by Engstler from DEEP, and the Cuse were looking good up 53-45. The score looked close but the Orange had all the momentum, and Michigan looked tired. You Knew Michigan wasn’t going to go away. Syracuse led after 3 quarters, 59-52.
Michigan went back to what worked earlier, and started attacking the paint again. Three straight layups for the Wolverines, 1 from Hillmon and two from Kayla Robbins would cut the Syracuse lead to 66-63 with 4:55 left. The teams traded buckets in the final minutes before a Kayla Robbins layup would put Michigan up 1 with 1:08 remaining. Syracuse would fail to score on the following possession, and Michigan’s Amy Dilk went 1-2 at the line to make it a 71-69 game.
Syracuse would get back to back offensive rebounds on the following possession and Digna Strautmane got fouled, putting her to the line to tie the game. With ice in her veins, she sank both. With 5.2 remaining Michigan had the last shot. Robbins took the last shot and missed, and we were headed to overtime in Ann Arbor.
Two free throws from Amy Dilk got the scoring going, and Syracuse would then immediately turn it over with a traveling violation. Hillmon would score making it a 4 point game, but Engstler would immediately answer with a three. It was 75-74 Michigan with 2 minutes gone in overtime. Michigan’s full court press caused Syracuse to turn it over on consecutive possessions, and Michigan suddenly had an 8-point lead in overtime. Four overtime turnovers would seal the Orange’s fate, as they would fall 84-76 as Michigan completed the comeback.
Emily Engstler would have another double double however, with 10 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks. Digna Strautmane would lead Syracuse with 16 points. Kayla Robbins was dominant for Michigan, as she had 23 points which paired well with Naz Hillmon’s 16 points. The Orange battled hard on the road, and this one stings because they really had this game. Michigan is a really good team and will compete for a B1G title, but three straight losses stings no matter who it’s against. The ‘Cuse will be back in action Sunday, December 8 when they host UMBC.