Syracuse Drops Third Straight in Overtime Loss to No. 24 Michigan
By Toni Bianco
CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Syracuse Women’s Basketball had its largest lead of the game with just under seven minutes to play after a lights-out three-point shooting performance through thirty-three minutes. But, two free throws from Michigan’s Michelle Sidor kickstarted a 16-6 run from the Wolverines to push the game into overtime.
The Big Blue then outscored the Orange 13-5 in OT, handing No. 24 Michigan (7-1, 0-0 Big Ten) the comeback win over unranked Syracuse (4-4, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) 84-76 in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge on Thursday. SU now sits at .500 to start the season after a three-game skid.
Michigan head coach Kim Barnes Arico couldn’t have drawn up a more perfect strategy in the fourth quarter for a comeback victory. 6’2” Naz Hillmon was face-guarding 5’6” Kiara Lewis in the full-court press. Her size and the tempo tripped up Lewis, causing easy turnovers and easy points for Hillmon. Barnes Arico had purposefully outsized Gabby Cooper and the other SU guards, creating mismatches and causing chaos in the Syracuse backcourt.
SU had a total of 24 turnovers on the night with exactly half coming after the third-period buzzer. The Wolverines even caused seven TOs in the final ten minutes of regulation.
Overall, the Big Blue just became the more aggressive team down the stretch. The Wolverine’s defensive conditioning changed the complexion of the game. If a basketball game were a marathon, Michigan went from running a nine-minute mile on mile 18 in the third quarter to sprinting a 6:20 on mile 23 to close out regulation.
Offensively, the Wolverine’s finesse in the final frames dominated SU, going to the interior pass finding holes in the defense. A Syracuse guard got caught flat-footed on back-to-back plays, not paying attention as Hillmon fed a backdoor cutter who slipped her defender.
Kayla Robbins led all scorers with 23 point while Hillmon added 16 for the Blue. The 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year played with the U19 USA basketball team over the summer and showcased her dominance against Syracuse. The ball consistently found its way to double-zero in white in high pressure situations.
SU had looked promising to start. The Orange came out with an attack-first mindset that had been lacking through the start of the season. The Orange dictated the pace of the game early on with an active 2-3 zone. It caused turnovers on steals that culminated in fastbreak layup conversions, resulting in an up-tempo speed on the court.
Michigan kept it tight throughout the first half, slicing through the SU zone defense. A cross-court pass straight into paint and over the top of the defense led to easy layups for Hillmon and Robbins.
However, Syracuse’s efficiency from behind the arc gave them the advantage heading into the locker room. The Orange were 7-18 from three through 20 minutes with freshman Teisha Hyman going 3-3 from deep.
Syracuse then controlled the third quarter with Digna Strautmane nailing back-to-back threes from the left corner. The junior finished the night with 16 points and shooting 4-5 from behind the arc.
Emily Engstler showcased her talent all over the floor, earning her fifth double-double of the season. The New York native stuffed the stat sheet, recording ten points, 14 rebounds, six assists and five blocks. Her court vision is unparalleled on this SU team, making solid decisions on when to drive or when to dish to the opposite block to create easy buckets for Amaya Finklea.
The Orange return to the Dome after a four-game road stretch to host UMBC on Sunday. Syracuse needs to maintain the attack-early mentality and continue its success from behind the arc in order to secure a much-needed non-conference victory at home. Tip-off is at 2 pm.
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