Syracuse Upset Bid Over No. 3 Oregon Falls Just Short

Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsmanm yells to his players in the fourth quarter of a second round women’s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament against Albany in Syracuse, N.Y., Sunday, March 20, 2016. Syracuse won 76-59. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Saturday, Nov 10, 2018 at 9:39 pm by Sports Editor

By A.J. Fabbri

Women’s Basketball Reporter

Gabby Cooper’s three-pointer with just under six minutes left in the fourth quarter capped an 8-0 run that gave No. 18 Syracuse (1-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) its first lead over No. 3 Oregon (2-0, 0-0 Pacific). But Oregon preseason All-American point guard Sabrina Ionescu’s 15 point effort in the final frame erased any chance of an SU comeback, beating the Orange 75-73.

The Orange traveled 2,798 miles from the Salt City to Eugene, and fatigue from the travel showed early. The Ducks drained three-pointers on their first three possessions, forcing SU to play from behind for the entirety of the game.

Syracuse, meanwhile, was cold from behind the arc in the early-going, finishing 0-7 from deep in the first half. The Orange struggled to find a rhythm offensively, as a 33 percent field goal percentage led to a seven-point Oregon lead at the half.

As the shooting from deep suffered, SU went to the interior to stabilize its scoring woes. Amaya Finklea opened up the second half with back-to-back layups, cutting the deficit to just three in the third quarter.

Whenever the Orange pulled within a short few, Ionescu answered. The junior knocked down a pull-up jumper, followed by one of her five three pointers to push the lead back up to nine.

With Oregon’s lead at four, Ionescu nailed another deep ball, forcing Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman to call a timeout just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.

From there, the Orange shored up its defense, sparking a comeback rally. Freshman Emily Engstler knocked down a runner in the lane, and completed the three-point play at the charity stripe. She then knocked down a pull-up jumper to tie things up at 54 with six minutes remaining.

After Ionescu and Miranda Drummond traded threes, the fourth quarter fireworks ensued.

With 4:30 remaining in the game and the score tied, Ionescu drove across the paint and drew contact from Engstler. The freshman was whistled for her fourth personal foul. She was then assessed a fifth and final technical foul after she said extra words after the call. With Hillsman incensed on the sidelines, Ionescu knocked down four straight free throws to give the Ducks a four- point lead.

The foul calls provoked a raucous Oregon home crowd, but the Orange battled back. Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi’s layup sparked an 8-0 run in which the Orange took their first lead of the game. Cooper’s second three of the quarter put SU up six, but Ionescu then took over.

On back-to-back possessions, Ionescu was left wide open in the corner in transition. Both times, she made SU pay. After Ionescu tied it, redshirt sophomore Erin Boley buried a straightaway three, reclaiming the Ducks’ lead with just 51 ticks left.

The Ducks held serve the rest of the way, knocking down five of seven free throws to ice the game.

Ionescu finished with 26 points, including knocking down five of eight from behind the arc.

SU point guard Tiana Mangakahia led SU with 15 points and eight assists. Cooper and Finklea both finished with 11 points each, while Engstler finished with nine points and six rebounds.

Syracuse returns to the east coast next, but will play on a neutral floor as they take on No. 20 Texas A&M (1-0, 0-0 SEC) in another tough non-conference matchup at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York on Wednesday, November 14th at 7 p.m.