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Saturday, Jan 04, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Emily Engstler’s Game Winner Lifts Syracuse over No. 8 Florida State in Overtime

By Chris Sacchi

CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter

Syracuse had lost its last two matchups against ranked opponents heading into Thursday’s showdown with No. 8 Florida State.

SU fell to both No. 22 West Virginia and No. 7 Louisville after failing to finish close games. This time, Syracuse (7-6, 1-1 ACC) finally executed during crunch time in a 90-89 overtime victory over Florida State (13-1, 2-1 ACC) in the Dome.

“Obviously you want them all, but this is a big one,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “We just ran a last-second play and executed.”

That execution separated this thrilling victory from another tough loss. Teisha Hyman was the inbounder with .8 seconds remaining in overtime as guards Gabrielle Cooper and Kiara Lewis created action around the perimeter.

However, Hillsman’s play of choice wasn’t trying for a contested long shot from outside the arc, but instead, he wanted to get Emily Engstler open close to the basket. So, Hyman lobbed the ball to a cutting Engstler, who caught it on the move and used the backboard to win it for the Orange at the buzzer.

“Coach Q ran a great play,” said Engstler. “I jumped and I said ‘I hope to god this goes in,’ and it did.”

According to the head man, Hillsman came up with this play at an Outback Steakhouse over three years ago while coaching AAU. He was eating dinner with current assistant coach Ronnie Enoch and said, “One day I’ll use this.”

The team had never even practiced the play and was introduced to it during the timeout.

The Orange forced overtime against a top-10 opponent when Digna Strautmane made two incredibly vital three pointers. She made the first with under a minute left in regulation, burying a contested three at the top of the arc. Strautmane did one better, tying the game at 81 with two seconds remaining to send the game into OT.

The junior finished the game with 12 points, but it was Kiara Lewis, who led SU with 21 points. Her driving layup gave the Orange an 88-87 lead with 17 seconds to play in overtime.

FSU’s Kiah Gillespie answered back with her own running layup with just .8 seconds remaining, looking like the dagger in another close loss for the Orange. But, Coach Q’s girls never gave up.

“There was a lot of fight by them. Plenty of opportunities to lay down and give the game away, and we didn’t,” Hillsman said.

This was the first Top-10 win for Syracuse since the 2016 NCAA tournament run that resulted in a runner-up finish.

Up next for the Orange is a matchup with Notre Dame back in the Dome on Sunday, January 5th at 4 p.m.

cjsacchi@syr.edu | @SachChristopher