Syracuse Extends Hot Streak as Late Tournament Push Continues
By Christopher Sacchi
CitrusTV’s Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The first quarter between two bubble teams was predictably a close, back-and-forth affair. North Carolina trailed Syracuse 17-16, and it was fair to assume this was one of those games that could stay close until the final buzzer.
Instead, the Orange (13-11, 7-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) outscored North Carolina (16-9, 7-7 ACC) 57-40 in the final three quarters from Carmichael Arena in Chapel Hill on Thursday night, winning by a final score of 74-56. SU has won three straight for the first time since the opening three games of the season. Meanwhile, UNC has dropped three in a row for the first time this season. The two teams have now switched spots in the ACC pecking order. Syracuse relied on a balanced offensive attack and stifling defense to take down the Tarheels.
After being named the National Player of the Week by College Sports Madness for the second time this year, Kiara Lewis was scoreless in the tight first quarter. Yet, she caught fire with seven points during a 9-0 run for SU to open the second quarter. It was no coincidence that once she heated up, so did Syracuse. After that run, UNC would never get as close as it was at the end of the first.
Lewis ended the night with 17 points, as did DIgna Strautmane, who erupted in the third quarter with 13 on a perfect 5-5 field goals. After seven points combined in the last two SU wins, Strautmane reminded everyone she still has a key role on the team, topping that mark in just once quarter of play.
Emily Engslter notched 16 points and an even more impressive 15 rebounds while splashing 4 threes. Overall, nine of the ten SU players that earned playing time scored, as the Syracuse offense shot 44.4% from the field.
In contrast, UNC shot 29.2% on the night, as the SU defensive pressure stifled the offense of the Tarheels. The man-to-man press in the backcourt that often times transitions into a 2-3 has seemed to be the winning formula on defense for head coach Quentin Hillsman. A zone press had caused some transition opportunities for teams in the past, but man press against No. 5 Louisville was instrumental, and it continued tonight.
Syracuse will try to make it four in a row on Sunday against Clemson, with a 1:00 tip off at The Dome. Before the game, Tiana Mangakahia will address the home crowd for the first time this season. Fans planning to attend have been told to wear pink for the game. For anyone not going to the matchup, follow along @CitrusTVSports on twitter for a live coverage as well as a postgame video recap with player and coach interviews.
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