Syracuse went cold in the last five minutes of the game and the Jackrabbits took advantage to pull off the upset inside the Carrier Dome. SDSU was led by 20 points from Madison Guebert, 18 of which came from three-point range.
After a very competitive first quarter, Syracuse took a 24-20 lead headed into the second quarter. The two teams traded the lead multiple times in the first eight minutes. SU used its full-court trap to cause a few turnovers by the Jackrabbits late in the first, which helped Syracuse take a five point lead and eventually end the quarter up four.
Kiara Lewis was great off the bench for the Orange in the first quarter, scoring seven points, on 3-of-5 shooting and was money on the mid-range pull up jumper.
The Orange did a great job defending without fouling in the second quarter and this allowed them to get out to a 36-24 midway through the quarter. After a few lapses on defense and empty possessions on offense, South Dakota state was able to close the gap to 38-36 at halftime.
Paiton Burckhard lead the Jackrabbits with eight points in the first half, and Macy Miller Myah Selland added seven points for SDSU.
Lewis led Syracuse with nine points and Tiana Mangakahia wasn’t far behind with eight points of her own, including 4-of-4 from the free throw line.
SDSU took a 47-45 lead with three-and-half minutes left in the third quarter after a rough start from the field by Syracuse to begin the quarter. South Dakota State led by as many as eight, after Guebert hit a three-pointer in the left-hand corner to give the Jackrabbits a 53-45 lead.
Syracuse trailed 53-47 heading into the fourth quarter.
Two buckets by Miranda Drummond to begin the fourth quarter brought her teammates and the home crowd to its feet. After back-to-back-back steals, Syracuse went on a 8-0 run and took a 55-53 lead just one minutes and 32 seconds into the quarter. This led to a quick timeout by South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits wouldn’t go away easily, though, and tied the game at 57-57 with six minutes remaining. Then SDSU regained the lead when Guebert hits back-to-back three-pointers to give the Jackrabbits a 67-62 lead.
From there, Syracuse went cold over the last five minutes of the game and just wasn’t able to find the bottom of the net.
“At the end of the day, you can’t end the game 1-of-11, and (give up) a 16-2 run,” said Hillsman. That does it alone. You gotta do a better job of closing games. At the end of the day it’s my program, it’s my responsibility to get us in the right position to be successful, and score, and defend and that’s where I let them down today.”
South Dakota’s leading scorer Macy Miller didn’t have her usual performance, as she went 3-of-9 from the field, but she did finish with 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Jack Rabbits.
SDSU shot just under 46% from the field and 43% from deep. Syracuse finished just over 40% from the field, but was only 5-of-21 from three point range, which is only 23%.
Other than that, both teams were pretty much even in every category, except rebounding, where South Dakota State had a 40-32 advantage.
As she did many times this season, Mangakahia led the Orange with 18 points and a game-high eight assists. Those eight assists helped Mangakahia pass Alexis Patterson as the all-time leader in assists in program history with 591. What makes that feat even more remarkable is that it took her only two seasons to do so.
With the season now over, a huge decision looms in regard to Tiana’s future. She says she has yet to decided whether she will enter the WNBA draft.
“No I haven’t made that decision yet,” said Mangakahia. “I have to talk to my parents and family, if teams want me.”
Hillsman says he supports her decision no matter what.
“If Tiana’s ready to go, she should go. If she’s ready to go and they want to draft her and she’s a high draft pick, she should go. I’m never gonna tell somebody don’t follow your dreams and don’t do what’s in your best interest. I’m gonna support Tiana in whatever she decides to do. If she decides to go to the WNBA, I’ll be in the draft room with her. If she decides to come back, we’ll be in (the) Melo (Center) working on player development. These are like my daughters, these are my kids. And what’s important is, whatever she decides to do, I’m with her.”
Syracuse finishes the season 25-9 and had a lot of learning moments. Senior forward Miranda Drummond, who finished third on the team tonight with 11 points, says this won’t be the last time she and Mangakahia will play basketball.
“Basketball is in both of our futures so we’re going to continue playing but I thought we played hard this season,” said Drummond. “We had our fans backing us up from day one and we really appreciate our fans. It’s a tough loss and there is a lot to take away from it.”
Despite the loss, Hillsman said the season was still a success. “We’re 25 and nine. We had a fantastic season, have some fantastic players, a fantastic staff, fantastic administration. The Dome is the Dome. When you say the Dome their not asking where you’re playing at it, it’s the Dome. So, at the end of the day it’s a fantastic place and I got a fantastic team and we just wanna win and we wanna get better and we’re gonna get better.”
A promising season for Syracuse ends in heartbreak on their home floor. Even though the season didn’t end the way the hoped it would, Syracuse did put in an impressive effort that they can hopefully build on going forward.