#18 Syracuse WBB Sputters in Loss at UNC

Friday, Dec 18, 2020 at 12:59 am by Sports Editor

By James Corrigan

CitrusTV’s Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter 

In their three previous games against Division I competition, the 18th ranked Syracuse Orange struggled offensively, failing to shoot 40% from the floor in each of them. Yet the Orange came out with double digit wins in all three, thanks in large part to their defensive prowess and ability to force turnovers and convert them into points in transition.

Thursday night in Chapel Hill, the offensive struggles continued, as the Orange shot just 29% from the floor and 9-36 from three. But for the first time this year, Quentin Hillsman’s team paid the price for their poor shooting, as their defense let them down in a 92-68 loss to North Carolina to give them their first loss of the year.

The Tar Heels had their way with the Orange from the very start, never trailing in the game. They shot 47% from the floor, but their most telling stats were their 38 points in the paint and 21 assists on 30 made baskets. UNC seemed to have a clear lane to the basket on every possession, and sported three players with over 20 points on the night: Janelle Bailey with 25, Deja Kelly with 22, and 21 from Petra Holesinska off the bench.

The Orange, on the other hand, seemed disinterested at times in attacking the lane, as they settled for long and contested jump shots throughout the game. They produced only 5 assists on their 22 makes, and their stars were ineffective throughout, as their five starters combined for 11-46 from the floor. Tiana Mangakahia was largely ineffective coming off her foot injury last week, playing just 17 minutes and scoring 3 points with 1 assist. Kiara Lewis scored 10 points but was just 3-15 from the floor, dropping her overall shooting percentage to 27%.

The bright spots for Syracuse came from their bench. Emily Engstler produced her best game of the year with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Kiara Fisher, who had played just five combined minutes in the three previous Division I games, scored 11 points and knocked down 3 threes.

Among the biggest issues for the team was free throw shooting. The Orange shot just 15-28 from the line, including 3-8 from freshman Kamilla Cardoso, who scored 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, with many of each coming in the last several minutes of the game. The team’s season free throw percentage drops to 57% as a result, among the lowest in the nation.

Quentin Hillsman will have no shortage of adjustments to make, as his team prepares to travel to Boston College for a 2 PM Sunday tip.  While the week long layoff after this past Sunday’s game against Binghamton was cancelled may have played a role, Syracuse knows that it can no longer rely solely on its defense to carry them through games in ACC play. If the Orange want to achieve its goal of winning an ACC championship, they must find a way to score consistently.

jucorrig@syr.edu | @RealCorrigan