SU’s win also marked coach Quentin Hillsman’s 300th as head coach. Before today’s game, the Cardinals were 21-2 with a win over Oregon, and were vying for a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament come March. It was the first time Syracuse won against a top 5 opponent at home since they beat No. 2 UConn in 1996. Here’s how it went down today in the Dome:
Syracuse was able to get ahead early and maintain the rhythm of this game because of rebounding on both ends by Emily Engstler and Amaya Finklea. They out-rebounded Louisville 12-6, and 5-1 on the offensive end. Both teams struggled offensively early as the score was just 4-2 Orange at the 5:25 mark after an Engstler layup. Syracuse was able to take a 15-12 lead after the first quarter, as their defense looked stingy early. Louisville’s scoring struggled mightily in the second, and the Orange took advantage of it. While they weren’t exactly on fire either, some timely three pointers by Kiara Lewis combined with UL’s lack of scoring gave Syracuse a 30-20 lead at halftime. The Orange were in this game and they simply looked better than Louisville, which would be really hard to believe if I told you that before the game.
The shooting woes for both teams continued in the third, which was just fine with Syracuse, as they never saw their lead evaporate to a one possession game. Dana Evans and Jessica Laemmle hit back to back threes to start the half, and it looked like the Cardinals might be going on that run. The Orange settled in however and didn’t panic. It would be another two minutes before points were scored, but with 6:29 left in the quarter, Kiara Lewis hit two free throws to bring the lead back to six. UL was just 4-16 from the floor in the quarter.
Syracuse took a 41-32 lead into the final frame and it just never really seemed like Louisville was in this game. Syracuse made just three field goals in the fourth quarter, but went 11-16 at the line. A Jazmine Jones layup with 2:11 left cut the Syracuse deficit to 4, but a Lewis three pointer put Syracuse up 39-32. The clock ran out on the #5 team in the country, and Syracuse pulled off the shocker of the day. Syracuse 59. Louisville 51.
Jazmine Jones led Louisville with 15 points and grabbed 7 rebounds. Dana Evans tallied 13 in her teams losing effort. Syracuse was led by 24 points from Kiara Lewis, who went 7-12 from the charity stripe. Emily Engstler had 8 points and 9 rebounds and was all over the floor today. The win is huge for Syracuse. They are still on the outside looking in in terms of the NCAA Tournament bubble, but this put the Orange back in the conversation. Who knows what a win like this does to a season. The next three games are very winnable for Syracuse (UNC, Pitt, Clemson) and then they travel to South Bend to face Notre Dame in a rematch of a thriller from earlier this season. If they finish the year strong they have a chance, along with the ACC Tournament still to be played.
Congrats to Coach Q on win number 300. He has completely transformed the program and it looked as if the best is still yet to come.