No Late Magic this Time for Syracuse, losing at Virginia 57-41
By Chris Sacchi
CitrusTV’s Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The run was coming. It was bound to. It happened last time; why not today?
After a win against Virginia Tech last Thursday where the Orange trailed by 10 points with 4:45 to play, a similar situation came about Sunday afternoon down in Virginia against the Cavaliers, down 9 with 4:05 to play. Why wouldn’t Syracuse fans think another strong finish was in store?
However, the Orange (10-11, 4-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) did just the opposite of making “the run” on Sunday afternoon. No made field goals in that final 4:05 in a 57-41 loss at Virginia (9-1, 4-7 ACC.) 41 points is the lowest offensive output for Syracuse all season, well short of the previous low of 58.
The first quarter was a sign of things to come for SU, shooting just 5-17. However, a 6-0 run to end the quarter made it a slim 14-10 deficit. An interesting note in that first quarter was the number of points in the paint. Getting the ball inside was instrumental for the Orange in the comeback against Virginia Tech, and Coach Quentin Hillsman went back to what worked. SU’s first two buckets came from low-post shots from centers Amaya Finklea and Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, and eight of the ten points in the quarter came from the painted area.
Just like that 6-0 run in the first quarter, Emily Engstler’s personal 5-0 run in the second frame, that included a step back-three and a steal, kept Syracuse in the game. Virginia was out to its largest lead, 25-13, but Engstler’s impressive stretch kept things going towards a nine point deficit at halftime, 28-19. For the first time in several games, Kiara Lewis took a trip to the bench, sitting for the final few minutes of the first half. Her high volume of play time this season may have been a factor in her slow start in today’s game; Lewis was scoreless when she trotted to the bench.
The third quarter was the highest efficiency scoring period of the day for Syracuse at 31%. Heading into the fourth, this game had a very similar feel to Virginia Tech; SU struggling offensively, but doing just enough on defense and making just enough small runs to be in striking distance. Just like last Thursday, the Orange trailed by 12 heading into the fourth.
The fourth quarter began with a bang on the Syracuse side. Gabrielle Cooper forced a steal, leading to a fastbreak bucket for Digna Struatmane. As mentioned above, “the run” was going to be Syracuse’s chance to come back, just like it had done to overcome Tech. After a back-and-forth next six minutes, the Virginia Cavaliers lead by 9 with 4:05 to play. Strautmane connected on a jumper, and it looked like Hillsman’s team had a chance to make that run.
The Cavaliers had other plans. A defense that dominated all night, holding the visitors to 26% from the field and 12% from three point range, locked in for its best stretch. Syracuse failed to make a field goal in those final four minutes, while UVA kept rolling.
Jocelyn Willoughby, who entered play leading the ACC in scoring at just over 19 points per game, eclipsed that average with 24. The icing on the cake for her great night was five critical points in the latter part of the fourth. Her strong play, combined with quality contributions up and
down the roster, all cemented by a lockdown defense, was too much for Syracuse, losers in five out of the last seven games.
Also difficult for Syracuse to overcome was the unusual off-game from Lewis. She entered play averaging 17.7 points per game, but could only muster 2 points on 1-11 shooting. Worse, she did not get to the free throw line despite racking up points at the stripe all season. Her pile up of minutes played this season could be a factor; after today, Lewis is averaging 37 per game. Many of these minutes have come in high-stress, must-win ACC games, not to mention the four overtime games SU has played this season.
Another key figure for Syracuse is Emily Engslter, who had 10 at halftime but faded down the stretch and finish the game with just as many points at the final buzzer. While the SU offense struggled everywhere today, Lewis and Engstler usually lead the way when this team wins.
Syracuse is back on the road this Thursday, traveling to Boston College. Follow along @CitrusTVSports for live tweet coverage as the Orange try to get back to the .500 mark.
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