It was a hard fought battle for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were able to edge the ‘Cuse in a nail-biter Sunday afternoon, 72-70.
Syracuse struggled on both ends of the floor from the early minutes. Notre Dame got out to a 12-3 lead after knocking down a couple of tough shots. SU started off the game trying to establish their three point shooting, but Engstler and Lewis just couldn’t find it. Destinee Walker started to find her groove for the Irish, and it looked like a serious rout was on way too early in this one. A Mikayla Vaughn jumper made it 23-5 Notre Dame. The quarter ended for Syracuse thanks to a Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi free throw, and the defect was 27-11 in favor of the Irish. Not exactly the start you’re looking for on the road.
As the Orange tried to cut into the Notre Dame lead in the second quarter, they needed to start hitting some of their outside shots. Digna Strautmane and Kiara Lewis knocked down back to back threes, to cut the deficit to 32-21. Syracuse was at least now in a position where they could make a game of this. These two buckets were part of a 10-3 ‘Cuse run. The Irish were able to absorb the first blow however, and they knocked down a couple of nice buckets including a Kaitlyn Cole jumper to make it a 39-23 lead. Syracuse had several offensive possessions where they were able to connect from the field and started to trade buckets with Notre Dame a bit. They went into the locker room down 44-31, not ideal but definitely not out of it.
: Coach Hillsman’s postgame interview following today’s game at Notre Dame. pic.twitter.com/5dqci52ZSi— 'Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) February 23, 2020
The third quarter was filled with offense with not really one team being able to dominate. On one hand, Notre Dame was trying to end this thing by increasing their already double digit lead, and on the other Syracuse was trying to cut the lead into the single digits. Kiara Lewis was able to find the basket with four seconds left in the quarter, and the Orange were down 62-54 heading into the final frame. Syracuse was in a really good spot if they could finish this thing. SU finally popped off late in the fourth as they were able to cut the lead to 2 after a Gabrielle Cooper three with 2:46 left in the fourth.
A couple of empty possessions for both teams followed, until Kiara Lewis was followed and she knocked down two free throws at the line. Tie game 70-70. The following possession, Mikayla Vaughn was fouled by Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi and she sank two free throws with 1:20 left to take a 72-70 lead. Another point wouldn’t be scored for either team, as the Orange lost a heartbreaker in South Bend.
Mikayla Vaughn finished with 21 points and 5 rebounds for the Irish. Sam Brunelle tallied 15 points and grabbed 9 boards in her team’s victory. For Syracuse, they were led once again by Kiara Lewis, who scored 24 points. Gabrielle Cooper got her second straight double double as she scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds.
The Orange will be back in action on Thursday February 27 when they travel to Raleigh to play No. 10 NC State in what’s now a must-win game to keep those faint NCAA Tournament at-large hopes alive.