The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team beat Fordham, 70-49 on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. SU outscored Fordham 56-34 in the final three quarters, after trailing 15-14 at the end of the first quarter.
The Orange struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first 10 minutes. Syracuse finished 6-of-17 from the field in the first quarter and had four turnovers. Amaya Finklea and Tiana Mangakahia led the Orange with four points each at the time.
Mangakahia was responsible for all 14 of SU’s first quarter points. She had four assists that resulted in 10 points.
Syracuse used its defensive pressure to take momentum of the game in the second quarter. The Orange got out to an early 9-0 run to start the quarter and that led to a timeout by Fordham. Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman was pleased with his team’s performance to begin the quarter and celebrated with the team as they came off the floor during the timeout.
“We just really had to knock the rust off a little bit, you know,” said Syracuse guard Gabrielle Cooper. “We had to get in the flow of the game and once we got in the flow of the game we fine. We went on a 16-2 run and I feel like that was a good quarter for us. So, runs like that is what we need.”
Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi made a good contribution off the bench, scoring six points in the second quarter, including back-to-back buckets as a part of SU’s run to begin the quarter. This was a good sign for the Orange after Djaldi-Tabdi was had a collision with two Fordham defenders and had to be subbed out in the first quarter.
The Orange outscored the Rams 24-12 in the second quarter and shot 50% percent from field.
Syracuse took a 38-27 lead into halftime. The team shot 43% from the field including, 6-of-9 from three-point range. Mangakahia and Cooper led the Orange with nine points a piece.
Cooper found her shot in the first 20 minutes, going was 3-of-3 from three-point range. Cooper’s contribution has been great for the Orange all season, even when it goes unnoticed.
“I take a lot of pride in it” said Cooper. My name is not always in the light, but that’s ok. I’m fine with that, I’m fine with just playing my role. Every good team needs good role players, so I like to just step up when I’m needed.”
Mangakahia had six assists and three steals to go along with her nine points.
Bre Cavanaugh and Kaitlyn Downey both scored nine points to led the way for Fordham.
Both teams struggled from the floor in the third. Syracuse shot just under 31% and Fordham was just over 27%. The Rams had an advantage from three-point range, hitting four shots behind the three-point line, while Syracuse was 0-for-2. Fordham outscored SU 15-13 in the third quarter.
Syracuse took a 51-42 lead into the fourth and final quarter.
Turnovers and missed shots were Fordham’s kryptonite. The Rams only scored eight points in the fourth.
SU opened things up in the fourth quarter. The Orange extended its lead to 23 points, late in the fourth, which was its biggest lead of the game.
Mangakahia finished with a near triple-double. She had 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Mangakahia was two assists away from becoming the first player in school history, men or women, to have a triple-double in the NCAA tournament.
She said playing at home made a big difference. “Playing at home, sleeping in your on bed, just that kind of stuff is a great feeling,” said Mangakahia. “And the fans were great tonight and I really appreciate everyone for coming out and supporting us. We don’t get that often and knowing that we matter to them is a good feeling.”
The only other players to score in double-digits were Gabrielle Cooper with 13 points and Djaldi-Tabdi added 10 points off bench.
The Syracuse defense kept Fordham in check. The Rams shot 28% from the field and 29% from three-point range.
Syracuse shot well in every phase. The team hit 43% of its shots, including 64% from three and 75% from three throw line. SU did most of its work inside the paint and only shot attempted 14 three-pointers which isn’t a low number for a team that likes to get up plenty of shots from the perimeter.
“We’re not just a three-point shooting team,” said Hillsman. “And that’s what’s really been good about the second half of the season. We’re winning games by attacking the rim and playing in the paint.”
Syracuse will look to continue its success down low in its next game versus 6-seed South Dakota State on Monday in the Carrier Dome. Regardless of the outcome, Monday’s contest will be SU’s last home game of the season. Syracuse looks to perform well in front of the home crowd one last time this season and hopes it won’t be the last time fans can watch the Orange play.