The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team pulled off a shocker on Thursday night inside the Carrier Dome, finally scoring the big win we knew they could get. Against the previously unbeaten and top-10 Florida State Seminoles, Syracuse scored a 90-89 upset in overtime.
Not to sound like a broken record, but if you have been watching the Orange women this year, they have been in great game after great game, but have struggled to put together that big win (aside from Michigan State). SU’s Emily Engstler had enough of that talk.
The game started off fast for the ‘Cuse. Digna Strautmane hit a three early to put the Orange up 9-2 just three minutes into the game. You knew Florida State was going to weather the storm, but Syracuse looked confident and game from the tip. The almost perfect first quarter was topped with a layup by Teisha Hyman with 5 seconds left to put Syracuse up 26-15 going into the first break. The scoring for Syracuse would cool off in the second quarter. They were outscored by the Seminoles 21-12 in that frame, and FSU’s star Nausia Woolfolk started to find her rhythm. Syracuse was also already started to get into foul trouble, which would be huge as the game went on. Even with the slow second quarter, Syracuse brought a 38-37 lead going into the locker room.
As the second half got under way, it was more of what we’re used to from this Syracuse squad against ranked opponents: a game of runs that you just hoped Syracuse could contain.
Halfway through the third quarter, Florida State went on an 18-6 run, and that very well could’ve been the game had Syracuse rolled over. Some clutch shots by both teams kept this thing close going into the fourth. Both teams weren’t giving an inch, and this thing was going down to the wire yet again. With 33 seconds left in the game, Kiara Lewis fouled Valencia Myers with the Orange down 79-76. After missing the first and sinking the second, FSU had a three point lead with half a minute left. Kiah Gillespie fouled Syracuse almost immediately, sending Gabrielle Cooper to the line. She sank both shots, and we had a two point game. With 14 seconds left, Valencia Myers went 1-2 at the line again, and left the door slightly open for the Orange, only down three. Syracuse took its time finding a shot, but boy did it pay off. Strautmane, with ice in her veins, sent the game to overtime with a three. The Seminoles had three seconds left in regulation, but failed to find the basket.
The five-minute overtime frame went back and forth like a ping pong match. Lewis hit two free throws to give the Orange the lead, but back-to-back buckets for the Seminoles gave them the lead right back. Neither team scored in overtime from the 2:38 mark all the way to the 55-second mark. Free throws would be the name of the game down the stretch.
Down 85-83, Kiara Lewis knocked down two from the charity stripe to tie it up. Kiah Gillespie would then go 1-2 for FSU at the line, giving the Seminoles a one point lead. With 17 seconds left, Kiara Lewis came up incredibly clutch, dribble driving her way to the basket for a way to easy lay up. The Dome was jumping until a Gillespie layup with less than a second left put Florida State up by one. Why can’t this team catch a break? Or so we thought...
A timeout advanced the ball, and a perfectly drawn play with 0.8 seconds left is the only way the Orange could get a clean look. Coach Q had a trick up his sleeve, however. A double screen gave Emily Engstler a wide open layup as time expired, and yes, it went in.
Syracuse, after numerous tight losses to ranked opponents this year, handed No. 8 Florida State their first loss of the season, and first regular season loss since the last time Syracuse beat them in Tallahassee last year. As Coach Q ran across the court and the players mobbed Engstler, the joy across the faces of the Syracuse players was evident. They were finally able to close one of these out.
Gillespie had a huge game for Florida State, scoring 27 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Nausia Woolkolf also had a solid game, tallying 19 points. Kiara Lewis entered the Syracuse 500-point club today, as she scored 21 points. Gabrielle Cooper had 14, followed by 12 points from Digna Strautmane, knocking down four shots from beyond the arc. Engstler would also tally 12, but none more important that the final two. What a game, and what a win. As you should know already, this team is extremely fun to watch.
The Orange (7-6, 1-1) will be back in action on Sunday, January 5 against last year’s national runner-up Notre Dame — though the Irish are just 6-8 this season.