Syracuse Drops Below .500 for the First Time in Over a Decade at Wake Forest

Sunday, Jan 26, 2020 at 11:12 pm by Sports Editor

By Chris Sacchi

CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The year is 2006. Nintendo released the Wii, Pirates of the Caribbean 2 was the highest grossing movie, and Quentin Hillsman had just taken over as the head coach of the Syracuse Women’s Basketball team. That was the last time Syracuse had fallen below .500.

Until today.

Syracuse fell to 9-10 and 3-5 in conference play after its 65-60 loss to Wake Forest (12-8, 5-4 Atlantic Coast) in Winston-Salem. It was a slow, defense-heavy game overall, but the Orange offense didn’t do enough on Sunday, especially from beyond the arc.

SU and Wake kept it close throughout because as neither team cleared 40% shooting nor relented from press defense for any prolonged stretch of play. The press has been a staple for SU all season, but they got a taste of their own medicine from the Demon Deacons today, resulting in a very physical game.

The Orange and Demon Deacons virtually matched each other point-for-point in the first five minutes. Then, a 10-4 run for Wake gave way to a 13-8 string for SU, and suddenly the game was tied at 24 midway through the second quarter. Kiara Lewis earned two shots from the charity stripe before the halftime buzzer, making it 30-28 in favor of Syracuse before the break.

Lewis’ ability to get to the free-throw line has been a key factor for her and the team, and Sunday was no exception. She scored seven of her team-high 17 points at the line, finishing 7-10. Those free points proved extremely valuable in such a game where points were at a premium and shots were difficult to find in the half court. There were multiple possessions where Lewis decided to take matters into her own hands, putting her head down and attacking the basket towards the end of the shot clock.

The second half began with an uptick in offensive tempo, but the pendulum swung back towards the defensive side of the ball in the final frame. Neither team scored for over two and a half minutes of game play until the Orange broke the drought after Emily Engstler hit a tough step-back three pointer.

Those were the first three points of the quarter for SU.

Engstler got three more points the old-fashioned way, converting an and-one, on the next possession after SU forced a turnover. Her personal 6-0 run brought her team to within three points with 5:21 to play, but that would be the last time Syracuse would get so close.

The Wake Forest defense went back to disrupting the Syracuse offense, making it harder for SU to get good looks from beyond the arc.
The Orange came into Sunday ranked 1st in the ACC and 7th in the country with 519 threes attempted in 18 games, and Wake Forest seemed ready for such a barrage. SU shot only 6-22 from beyond the arc on Sunday, now sitting at 14th of 15 ACC teams in three point percentage at 27%.

Coach Hillsman could look to diversify his offense, getting more touches for his low-post players rather than relying mostly on three-point shooting, if the Orange want a chance to get back above .500.

Syracuse is back in action on Thursday night in the Dome, playing host to Virginia Tech at 8:00 p.m. | @SachChristopher