Kiara Lewis Leads Orange Past Ohio in Season Opener
By Toni Bianco
Citrus TV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
A last-second buzzer-beater from Taleah Washington capped a 21 point second quarter for No. 21 Syracuse (1-0, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) in Tuesday night’s 66-54 win against Ohio (0-1, 0-0 Mid-American) in its season opener.
The Orange went into the locker room at half up by one, thanks to a three-point buzzer-beater from Washington off an offensive rebound. The freshman made a risky choice; she saw teammate Brook Alexander open for a shot, but chose to take it herself.
“I knew if I passed it, that one second was gonna be out,” said Washington, “So, I was like turn around, Jesus bless me! And he blessed me.”
Washington credited the play to the “hustle for everything” mentality instilled by Head Coach Quentin Hillsman at practice.
“It’s great momentum going into the second half. I thought she made a gutsy play. She did what she had to do […] she had four offensive rebounds. That’s just tough, hard-nosed play,” said Hillsman.
Ohio jumped to an early lead, capitalizing off turnovers from the Orange. The Cuse committed several sloppy mistakes in the first ten minutes, including nine turnovers, two of which were walks, and eight fouls.
But Syracuse started to shake off the rust, holding the Bobcats to just 10 points in the second quarter. Amaya Finklea opened up the scoring for the Cuse, sparking the turnaround. The offense found a rhythm with Gabrielle Cooper, along with new members Brooke Alexander and Washington, beginning to hit shots from behind the arc, giving redshirt sophomore Kiara Lewis opportunities to find holes in the paint.
“My teammates on the perimeter- when they started knocking them down, they [Ohio] had to close out on them, so that gave me an open lane,” said Lewis.
Lewis solidified herself as a leader throughout the matchup. She contributed on both ends of the floor with 16 points, seven assists, eight rebounds, and she took a charge on defense in the second quarter. Hillsman noted that Lewis still has elements of her game to clean up, but she’s stepped up in a big way.
“As I’ve said the whole time, I’m not concerned about Kiki being able to run our team,” said Hillsman, the program’s all-time winningest coach.
On the other side, Cece Hooks led the way for the Bobcats. The Nancy Lieberman Point Guard of the Year watch list guard had 17 points, five assists, and nine rebounds. Ohio is the favorite to win the Mid-American Conference this season, and Hillsman chooses tough non-conference opponents like OU to prepare his team for their upcoming slate better.
“We wanted to be challenged. We have a challenging schedule later in the month, and we have to get ready for these games coming up,” said Coach Q.
Syracuse will face their next challenge Tuesday, November 12th, when it welcomes Maryland Eastern Shore to the Dome.