Mangakahia’s Overtime Buzzer Beater Lifts Syracuse in Cancun
By A.J. Fabbri
CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Reporter
Cancún, Mexico — In their third game in as many days, the No. 14 Syracuse Orange (6-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) faced their toughest test of the weekend, No. 16 DePaul (3-2, 0-0 Big East). Syracuse jumped out to an early lead, but as SU let a 15-point lead slip through its fingers, Tiana Mangakahia put the team on her back en route to an 83-81 buzzer beating victory in overtime.
The junior was quiet throughout the first half, but she didn’t need to be as Miranda Drummond was the hot hand early on. However, when her team needed her most, Mangakahia stepped up in a big way.
Both teams enjoy pushing the pace, and it showed from the opening tip. The contest looked more like a track meet, as neither team settled into a true half court offense. Syracuse opened up the game on a 7-0 run, feeding their big ladies down low. Amaya Finklea recorded six points in four minutes, but was planted on the bench after picking up an early second foul.
SU opened up the game in its patented 2-3 zone, and it worked to perfection. DePaul, which knocked down double-digit three pointers in each of its first four games, was an abysmal 0-17 from deep in the first quarter. The lockdown defense allowed the Orange to jump out to an early 12-point lead.
Eventually, the Blue Demons found their stride, knocking down five threes in the second quarter to halve the lead. Miranda Drummond paced the Orange with 9 first half points on 50% shooting from beyond the arc. Gabrielle Cooper also added five points and 10 rebounds in the first 20 minutes help her squad to a 35-29 as they went to the locker room.
The third quarter saw two major momentum shifts. The SU bench jumped to their feet after Drummond knocked home her fourth three pointer of the contest, giving the Orange its largest lead of the game at 15 with just two minutes left in the quarter.
Immediately following that shot, DePaul embarked on an 11-0 run to cut the lead to just four headed into the final frame.
The Blue Demons run didn’t end just because the whistle blew to end the third quarter. DePaul’s 11-0 run extended to an 18-0 run, taking their first lead of the game with eight minutes left in the fourth. Nine Syracuse turnovers led to 11 DePaul points during the run.
The Orange had no answer for DePaul’s Chante Stonewall, who tied the game at 58 with a layup, and later stretched the lead to six with an and-1 play. Stonewall finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
It took until 3:55 left in regulation for Syracuse to finally break the run with a Digna Strautmane jumper, which left the Orange behind by four after having that double-digit advantage.
Trailing by six with three minutes left, the Orange dug deep. Digna Strautmane found Mangakahia in the corner for three to cut the lead to three. Drummond duplicated that shot on the following possession, allowing SU to deploy a full court press. Kiara Lewis picked Kelly Campbell’s pocket and laid the ball in to tie the game at 68.
After a Stonewall miss, Mangakahia snatched the rebound and went coast-to-coast to cap a 7-0 Syracuse run and give the Orange a 70-68 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Campbell heaved a desperation three for the win. The shot clanked off the rim with time left on the clock. Stonewall was in the right place at the right time as the ball dropped to her outstretched arms, tapping the ball back into the air and off the backboard from the right block as time expired to force overtime tied at 70.
Syracuse walked towards the sidelines dejected, as the Blue Demons carried all the momentum into the extra time. That momentum seemed to carry over into overtime, as DePaul scored the first four points of overtime, all thanks to Campbell from the charity stripe.
From there, Mangakahia took over. The Blue Demons could not keep up with her as she sliced and diced her way into the lane for two straight buckets plus two more points from the free throw line to keep pace with DePaul.
Campbell knocked down two free throws to push the DePaul lead to three with 55 second remaining. On the ensuing possession, Mangakahia drilled a three pointer in front of the ecstatic ‘Cuse bench to knot the score at 81.
With 22 seconds left, DePaul’s Tanita Allen missed a jumper, but Stonewall again collected the offensive board and drew a foul. Stonewall, the game’s leading scorer, missed both free throws, opening the door for Syracuse to come back and earn a late victory.
After a Quentin Hillsman timeout, the Orange inbounded the ball from the sidelines. Mangakahia took the ball from the right wing down the lane, and looked to be pinned against the sidelines. But preseason all-ACC selection wiggled her way around the defender and tossed up a reverse layup underneath the hoop. The ball had enough backspin, and floated right through the hoop as Mangakahia flopped to the deck.
The buzzer sounded and her teammates mobbed her in celebration after a heroic 11 point overtime performance.
Mangakahia finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Averaging 18 points, nine assists and 5.3 rebound over the three game span, Mangakahia was named the Cancun Challenge MVP.
Miranda Drummond also poured in a season high 21 points, 12 of them coming in the second half. Drummond also added seven rebounds and four steals.
Gabrielle Cooper registered a double-double with 10 points and a career high 12 rebounds. She was named to the all-tournament team, averaging 11 points and 6.3 rebounds in Mexico.
The Orange finished an impressive 3-0 in Cancun, improving to 6-1 overall. Next up for Syracuse is a trip to Minneapolis to face No. 23 Minnesota on Thursday, November 29 as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.