As temperatures dropped below freezing in Central and Western New York, instate foes the Syracuse Orange and Buffalo Bulls women’s basketball teams renewed their “rivalry” for the first time in 10 years — just over 1,200 miles away in the Bahamas. And unfortunately, for the third straight contest, the Orange fizzled out in the second half, falling 88-79 to the Bulls in the seventh-place game in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
For the second time in three days, a Syracuse team was run out of the gym by an in-state foe. The Bulls didn’t chuck quite as many threes as the Colgate men’s team, but they did shoot them at a more efficient clip, finishing 13-of-22 (59 percent) from beyond the arc.
It was extra sweet for former Syracuse standout-turned Buffalo head coach Felisha Legette-Jack, who earned her first career win over her alma mater. Legette-Jack recently had her jersey hung in the rafters of the Carrier Dome, the first female Syracuse athlete to have her number retired.
Syracuse’s reserve guard Jayla Thornton missed the game with an upper-body injury, meaning the Orange rotation was six deep. They still managed to come out hot but could not keep pace in the second half.
The Orange and the Bulls combined to shoot a ridiculous 19-of-28 from three-point range. In the first half.
Buffalo’s Dyaisha Fair had 22 first-half points on seven-for-eight shooting from deep. Syracuse’s dynamic Carr duo of Chrislyn and Christianna combined for 27 points and eight-of-10 shooting from three in the first 20 minutes.
The Bulls jumped out to a 13-7 lead just over four minutes into the game, but the game’s torrid pace meant that no margin was safe. Christianna Carr drained two consecutive threes to give the Orange a 33-29 edge with just over six minutes left in the first half, but Buffalo reeled off 13 straight points in three to go up 42-33.
Fair and Chrislyn Carr traded threes near the end of the half, and the Bulls led 48-44 at the break.
Legette-Jack was clearly displeased with her team’s defense going into the locker room. The Bulls switched from a matchup zone to a man-to-man and quickly extended their lead to 63-48 with a 15-4 run early in the third quarter. A tired Orange squad could not get closer than two possessions away for the rest of the game.
Chrislyn Carr cut the UB lead to 77-71 with a triple midway through the fourth quarter, but a technical foul on the Syracuse bench after a foul call on Naje Murray with 4:05 remaining took what air was left out of the Orange’s sails. It was 82-71 after the free throws.
Fair finished with a show-stopping 34 points on just 15 attempts from the field for Buffalo (2-2). Summer Hemphill wasn’t far behind, with 28 points and 10 rebounds. The Bulls shot 31-for-64 on the night.
Chrislyn Carr paced the Orange (2-4) with 23 points on nine-of-14 shooting, including a five-for-six effort from deep. Christianna Carr had 19, while Teisha Hyman and Eboni Walker had 14 and 12, respectively.
Even though Syracuse made 10-of-20 from three-point range, they only hit one-of-six attempts from deep in the second half. They shot 46 percent from the floor on the night.
The Orange got outrebounded for the third straight night, losing 40-34 on the glass. Buffalo parlayed 17 offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points. Syracuse was also outshot from the foul line for the third consecutive game. They took 24 combined attempts from the line during the Battle 4 Atlantis, while their opponents combined to attempt 56 free throws.
A last-place finish in the Bahamas is certainly not ideal for Vonn Read’s team. Being soundly beaten by a mid-major from your own state (a very good one, at that) adds insult to injury. The non-conference slate softens except for Ohio State next Wednesday. Syracuse will try to make its winless trip to the Bahamas a learning and bonding experience.
The Orange will return to the Carrier Dome to face Colgate on Sunday at 2 p.m. Let’s hope for a different result than the one the men’s team experienced against the Raiders last weekend.