After an exciting overtime thriller vs. Florida State just a few days ago, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team had a chance to beat another historically good opponent in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Sunday night.
Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the first quarter. Syracuse was 7-of-23 from the field compared to 6-for-18 for the Irish. After a Amaya Finklea-Guity free throw just under two minutes into the game, the Orange jumped out to a 6-0 lead. Syracuse would never surrender the lead in the first quarter, even though they shot just 30% from the field and was only 3-of-12 from beyond the arc.
Notre Dame got their scoring going in the second quarter, which boded well against Syracuse who could simply not find the basket. The Orange shot an ice cold 12.5% from the field, going 2-for-9 from three in the second. Regardless of the poor shooting, with 2:10 left in the quarter a Kiara Lewis free throw put the Orange up 31-27. Syracuse would fail to find the basket for the rest of the half, as Notre Dame was able to use a Sam Brunelle jumper with 45 seconds to go to tie this thing at 31 going into the locker room.
Syracuse didn’t come out of the half as you would’ve hoped, as the ‘Cuse still struggled to really get anything going offensively. They went 0-for-8 from three in the third, and the Irish were able to establish a lead they would bring well into the third quarter. Emily Engstler was the only player who really dominated for Syracuse, as she would eventually grab her career high in points with 20, and record another double double corralling in 11 rebounds. A Destinee Walker free throw gave the Irish a 49-41 lead with about two minutes left in the quarter, and the wheels seemed to kind of fall off for the Orange from here. Syracuse wouldn’t find the basket for the rest of the third, including consecutive free throw misses from Kiara Lewis, one of the Orange’s best shooters. Going into the fourth, Syracuse was still in it though, and they kept up the defensive pressure.
For the first time really since the first quarter, Notre Dame was the team struggling to find the basket and Syracuse was getting off some good looks. Notre Dame held a somewhat comfortable lead though until the 3:41 mark. Gabrielle Cooper drilled a three to make it a four point game, 58-54. Almost a minute would pass until Kiara Lewis knocked down two free throws, making it just a two-point game with 2:55 left. Yes Syracuse fans, that’s right. Another close one for this basketball team. With 1:30 left, Anaya Peoples, just a 50% free throw shooter, sank two free throws, putting the Irish back up four. For the next minute, both teams went stagnant until Kiara Lewis went 1-of-2 at the line, and we had a one possession game with 30 seconds left. Syracuse sent Anaya Peoples to the line again, and she missed both.
Coach Q called timeout with 16 seconds left to draw up another play to try and send it to overtime. With 6 seconds left, Kiara Lewis launched a three from the left corner, and tied this thing up. You just knew it was going in when it was in the air. Notre Dame still had a shot though, and got a pretty good look, but Digna Strautmane blocked a Peoples jumper to secure this game was going five more minutes.
As overtime started, Notre Dame looked absolutely gassed. Syracuse came out like they were shot out of a cannon, as a Lewis jumper with 3:14 left gave the Orange a 69-60 lead. After a Teisha Hyman layup to go up 11, Muffet McGraw called timeout, and you could start hearing that fat lady sing. For the first time in 18 years, Syracuse beat Notre Dame, in overtime, by a score of 74-63. Syracuse would end the game on a 25-5 run to seal the Irish fate.
Destinee Walker led her team with 25 points, followed by Mikayla Vaughn with 16 points and 11 rebounds. Syracuse was led by who other than Kiara Lewis, who recorded her second best scoring night with 28 points, followed by Engstler with 22. Digna Strautmane was close to a double-double, as she had 9 points and rebounds, as well as 3 blocks, but none more important than the block at the end of regulation to send it to overtime. Syracuse shot just 32.1% from the field, but dug in defensively when it counted to pull out the win.
This game was huge. Notre Dame isn’t ranked and has a losing record, but winning this game means so much for the program. The Orange will travel to South Bend on Sunday, February 23 for a rematch of this one. Their next game will be in Coral Gables, Fla. against the Miami Hurricanes, a week from today with a noon tip on the ACC Network.