SU Women’s Basketball is at a Vital Crossroads
By Chris Sacchi
Syracuse Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
Syracuse Women’s Basketball is 9-9 on the season and 3-4 in conference play after a 1-2 week featuring a 69-51 win at Pittsburgh, sandwiched by two significant home losses to Duke and Georgia Tech by a combined 48 points. That is good enough for ninth in the 15 team Atlantic Coast Conference.
18 games in and 11 left for the regular season, it’s time for this team to look in the mirror and evaluate where this season is headed. Head Coach Quentin Hillsman says it begins with him.
“I don’t think we played as hard as we could have tonight… I really don’t have the answer as to why we didn’t come up with a little more effort, a little more energy. But, at the end of the day it’s my job to find it,” Hillsman said postgame on Thursday, January 16th, after an 82-64 loss vs. Georgia Tech.
“It starts at the top with me, I gotta find a way to get us more consistent, not have these games where we played really well, and then we come and play really bad.” This was Hillsman after the 88-58 loss vs. Duke a week later.
Playing well like coach talked about includes the blowout win at Pittsburgh, but that game may have been deceiving. Yes, it is never easy to play a team on the road in the ACC, but the Panthers have had a variety of issues all season. The team ranks dead last in the conference with a 3-15 overall record, still searching for its first ACC win after seven tries.
Pitt coughed the ball up a whopping 26 times in that loss, yet the SU offense shot only 37.3% from the floor against the worst defensive team in the conference. Pitt has the worst mark at 70.6 opponent points per game, and Syracuse was not able to match that with 69 points.
SU is second worst in opponent average at 68.6 per match. That defensive number is propped up by these last two tough home losses, games in which SU gave up an average of 85 points.
Coach Hillsman is steadfast in employing a press defense as a key to initiate winning basketball.
The key is to cause deflections and turnovers for transition shots and easy opportunities. Those chances are more likely to result in a score, which sets up an opposing inbound, easily the best situation in which to employ the press, and the formula continues. A string of these plays has the potential for great runs that can crush opposing teams.
However, the Syracuse offense is largely missing out on one key part of that formula; making shots. The SU offense shot 41.0% against Georgia Tech, and followed that up a week later with a 32.3% performance vs. Duke. Without made shots, there is no opposing inbound, making it much harder to set up the press.
Will Hillsman consider a switch in the process?
“You’ve got the quote for your story; I’m never going to stop,” he proclaimed after Duke, when asked about his preferred style of play.
The Road Ahead
In the postgame conference after the Duke loss, one reporter dropped the T-word on Hillsman.
Will this team make the NCAA tournament?
“Of course,” the head coach said without hesitation. “If we win the next 12, what’s our record then?”
The confidence is there, and rightfully so for a team that has pulled out wins over then No. 8 Florida State and Notre Dame.
“We have a chance to win every game from here on out… there’s no team in the ACC we can’t beat.”
Syracuse has no remaining games against ranked opponents, but that was the case headed into this week. After limited time to practice heading into a road matchup with Wake Forest on Sunday at 4:00, there are adjustments to both sides of the ball that this team needs to make in order to get back on the winning track.
And who knows? If Hillsman’s formula is going right, a 12-0 record to end the regular season could be on the way.
Follow along @CitrusTVSports for updates during this Sunday’s game in Winston Salem.
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