Late Mistakes Lead to Another Syracuse Loss Against No. 7 Louisville
By Christopher Sacchi
CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
LOUISVILLE, KY. – Against ranked opponents, the margin for error for unranked Syracuse (6-6, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) is razor-thin. Especially late in games.
Despite keeping the game close (SU never trailed by more than 11 points), The Orange fell to No. 7 Louisville (12-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast) 62-58.
This game was very similar to the previous 71-69 loss to West Virginia; it came down to the wire, and one or two late-game miscues victimized Syracuse.
“Young team mistakes. Not getting a free throw rebound […] you can’t do that against good teams, they’ll make you pay.” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said after the game.
The play Hillsman mentioned happened with 0:34 left in the game. Elizabeth Balogun was at the free-throw line for Louisville, up by one point, 59-58. Balogun missed both shots, but as the second shot fell off the rim, Teisha Hyman and Amaya Finklea went for the rebound simultaneously.
Neither player secured the ball as it found its way back to Balogun. The sophomore put the ball back up and through the bottom of the net to give the Cardinals a crucial three-point lead that they would never relinquish en route to the win.
“They gotta communicate. We do it every day. ‘I got it.’ We get that rebound, and we don’t give them another opportunity.” Hillsman said.
In the two-point loss to West Virginia in the 2019 Florida Sunshine Classic, a late reach-in foul from Garbille Cooper and an offensive three-second violation from Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi befell the Orange.
The first 20 minutes of the game was a slow, defensive lead battle. Both teams shot 32% from the field as Coach Hillsman’s defensive tactics prevented the Cardinals from getting into a rhythm. Hillsman started the game in the full-court press, as has been effective for the team against these ranked opponents.
In addition, Hillsman frequently switched between his customary 2-3 zone and man-to-man defense, sometimes starting a defensive possession in one before turning to the other mid-play. This strategy caused a usually explosive Louisville offense to stall, lots of lateral passing on the perimeter, and very little dribble penetration. Case in point: Junior Louisville guard Dana Evans entered the game leading both teams in scoring at 19.3 per game, but was held without a point for the entirety of the first half.
Senior guard Jazmine Jones picked up the slack for Louisville with 24 points in the game and eight in the first half. Digna Strautmane matched Jones in the first half with 8 points herself, but she finished with just that many after a scoreless second half.
Syracuse struggled with taking care of the ball in the first half, coughing it up ten times. Louisville capitalized with seven points off those turnovers.
Early in the third quarter, Hillsman took a timeout about after a quick 5-0 run for the Cardinals. The Orange did a good job of responding, halting the run and trading baskets as part of a second-half that was a bit more offense focused and higher paced. Syracuse, though, couldn’t afford to trade baskets to catch up and were outscored 19-13 in the third quarter.
The fourth period was another back-and-forth affair that saw the Orange chip away at the lead, highlighted by Teisha Hyman’s two three-pointers a minute apart. The second three tied the game at 54 with 5:23 to play.
With an Amaya Finklea two-point jumper, Syracuse took the lead 58-57 with 2:32 to play, getting ahead of Louisville for the first time since early in the second quarter.
Jazmine Jones gave Louisville another late lead, 59-58, with 1:19 left, setting up a huge possession for the Orange. Kiara Lewis, who scored 14 points to lead Syracuse, had the ball in her hands to reclaim the lead, but Bioncum Dunhmam blocked her driving layup attempt, a game-saving play that got the large home crowd loud and on their feet.
The Orange still had a chance, however, quickly fouling Elizabeth Balogun. This lead to the lack of communication mistakes mentioned previously that ultimately decided the game. Once again, Syracuse had a chance to take down a ranked team and add a significant win to the resume, but a slight miscue ensured a tight loss.
Syracuse has another big test in No. 8 Florida State at home on January 2nd, as Syracuse looks for its second ranked win of the season.
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