The Orange dropped their fifth consecutive contest to fall below .500 for the first time since they were 3-4 before an upset of Ohio State on Dec. 1. Syracuse also fell to 1-3 against ACC teams with former Orange players on their rosters. Digna Strautmane, who spent four years in Upstate New York, transferred to Georgia Tech as part of the mass exodus from the program.
The Yellow Jackets came in with the nation’s best scoring defense, only surrendering 46.3 points per game. When they knocked off the UConn Huskies in December, Georgia Tech held Geno Auriemma’s squad to five fourth-quarter points in the 57-44 upset.
Inside anchors, Lorela Cubaj and Nerea Hermosa, who are both six-foot-four or taller, have been providing stiff opposition in the paint all season long. Syracuse couldn’t get much going from close to the basket and struggled to defend the bigs at the other end.
The Orange and Yellow Jackets only combined to hit six threes. Georgia Tech shot 2-12 from beyond while the Orange shot 4-20. The difference was that the Yellow Jackets ran their offense through their bigs. Syracuse, on the other hand, needed to make more from the outside to have a legitimate chance.
Teisha Hyman led the Orange with 18 points but needed 21 shot attempts to get there. Chrislyn Carr and Alaysia Styles were the other Syracuse players in double-figures with 12 each. Carr and Hyman both ended up fouling out of the game.
Christianna Carr struggled to a four-point night, and Naje Murray continued her shooting slump, finishing with five.
Georgia Tech employed a balanced attack, with Hermosa leading all scorers with 21 points. Cubaj added 14, and Eylia Love had a double-double with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Strautmane nearly had one herself, finishing with nine points and 10 boards.
Almost impossibly, the Orange found themselves trailing before the opening tip. An administrative issue (a light on the backboard wasn’t working properly) cost Syracuse a technical foul, allowing the Yellow Jackets to go up 1-0 before a single second came off the clock.
Georgia Tech got the ball down low early and often, building a 21-15 after 10 minutes. Syracuse struggled on the offensive end for the first five minutes of the second quarter. Turnovers and missed shots led to a scoring drought that allowed the Yellow Jackets to open up a 31-15 advantage after a layup from Hermosa.
A layup from Chrislyn Carr capped off a 7-0 responding run from the Orange, but Georgia Tech still took a 35-24 lead into the break.
Syracuse played a solid third quarter but couldn’t cut as deep into GT’s lead as it would have liked. Chrislyn Carr made a mid-range jumper to cut it to 40-34 with 4:42 left in the third, and Alaina Rice brought the deficit to 43-38 with two free throws a couple of minutes later.
Unfortunately for the Orange, it was the closest they would get. Carr hit another jumper to make it 48-42 after three quarters, but Syracuse went cold at the wrong time. The Orange didn’t hit a shot in the fourth until a Hyman three made it 54-46 with 4:21 left.
Strautmane had the answer with a three on the next possession, and a second-chance score from Cubaj stretched the lead to 59-46 with under three minutes to play.
Teams like Georgia Tech are just another level above the Orange. That’s the reality for Syracuse. There are just some teams that the Orange can’t match up against across the board.
Syracuse will be back in action next Thursday when it faces Notre Dame in South Bend.