Syracuse’s Change in Offensive Strategy Helps in Comeback Win over Virginia Tech

Saturday, Feb 01, 2020 at 3:22 pm by Sports Editor

By Chris Sacchi

Syracuse Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter

Syracuse’s loss at Wake Forest marked some unfortunate history for the Orange, first time under .500 for the first time since 2006. It looked like this team would sink even further when SU found themselves down by 10 points to Virginia Tech late in the fourth quarter Thursday night.

With all signs pointing to a lack of offensive punch, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman made a change in the offensive philosophy.

“We just started running some good stuff to get the ball inside,” Hillsman said. “And to be honest, it was [SU assistant coach Vonn Reed] that told us we need to start running stuff to get the ball into the paint.”

Coach Q is strong-willed and dedicated to his system of shooting from the outside, but his team has been struggling form deep as of late. SU ranks 7th in the entire country in three pointers attempted at 558, which averages at just below 28 threes per game. Quantity does not mean quality in this case as the Orange’s 28.3% efficiency from downtown ranks 276th in the nation and second to last in the ACC.

Thus, Hillsman, with help from Reed, changed the offensive focus in order to get the win over Virginia Tech.

“A lot of credit goes to Vonn for just getting me back focused on the sideline and doing the things that we were doing to be successful,” Hillsman said.

SU scored 16 points in the paint in the fourth quarter of Thursday’s game, double what the team was averaging inside through the first three periods. Center Amaya Finklea scored six critical points during the final frame, all of them coming in the low block. Her inspired play prompted praise from Coach Hillsman.

“Amaya, she was fantastic for a stretch of that game, scoring the basketball in the paint,” Hillsman said.

Finklea tied her season high with 13 points on 6-9 shooting against Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, fellow center Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi scored 12 points on 6-12 from the field.

“We knew that if we just kept pounding the ball inside, and trying to get them in deep position, that we would be able to be successful,” Finklea said.

Another benefit to the switch to low-post offense was the opportunities it opened up for the guards.

“It started with our bigs,” Kiara Lewis said. “They were making plays in the post, and it opened up driving lanes for me. Dumping it down and they were able to finish, it was tough for Virginia Tech to guard the pick-and-roll and guard our post players, so all our credit goes to the post players for finishing down low.”

Syracuse had 15 assists, their highest total since Pittsburgh, and Lewis had five of them. However, Lewis took matters into her own hands at the end of the game, sealing the comeback victory over the Hokies when she made a driving layup with 4.9 seconds remaining.

It will be interesting to see if Hillman and Co. stick with getting the ball back inside after this newfound success or if they go back to focusing the offense from beyond the arc. | @SachChristopher