Mangakahia the Star in 75-65 Victory over #20 Texas A&M
By A.J. Fabbri
Women’s Basketball Reporter
WESTCHESTER, NY– With the Orange trailing heading into the second half, in danger of dropping two straight games to ranked teams, Tiana Mangakahia took over. The junior point guard scored 17 of her 26 points in the second half, leading No. 18 Syracuse (2-1, 0-0 Atlantic Coast) to a 75-65 win over No. 20 Texas A&M (2-1, 0-0 Southeastern) in the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York.
For the second game in a row, Mangakahia appeared outshadowed. Preseason All-American Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon scored 26 points last Saturday and it appeared that preseason All-SEC selection Chennedy Carter was on her way to outplaying Mangakahia as well, leading all scorers with 15 points in the first half.
After the break, the Australian’s hounding defense silenced Carter.
“I could see [Carter] getting frustrated,” Mangakahia said with a smile.
“Honestly, I think Tiana’s getting tired of hearing about all the point guards she’s playing against and how good they are,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said, “because she’s pretty good herself.”
The Orange came out of the gates strong, something they have yet to do this season. After sprinting out to a 13-7 lead, SU got sloppy with the ball. Eleven first half turnovers handed the Aggies a 35-34 halftime lead.
“It wasn’t really the result we wanted at halftime,” Mangakahia said. “Carter had 15 points. We adjusted to her, and we came out a little bit more aggressive.”
SU’s halftime adjustments made an immediate impact. On the first offensive possession of the third quarter, Mangakahia knocked down one of her three deep balls from straight away. That sparked a 13-0 Orange run, putting Hillsman’s squad in control for the remainder of the game.
The lead swelled to as much as 17 in the fourth, thanks to a career performance from Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi. The redshirt freshman recorded her first double-double in just her third game. Djaldi-Tabdi provided stability on the interior when outside shots weren’t falling, racking up 15 points and 11 boards. With five legitimate bigs on the roster in Djaldi-Tabdi, Digna Strautmane, Amaya Finklea, Kadiatou Sissoko, and Emily Engstler, minutes have been difficult to come by. Djaldi-Tabdi isn’t concerned about minutes or personal accolades, just the score when the clock hits zero.
“[The double-double] is great, but the most important thing is that we won, so I’m just happy about that,” Djaldi-Tabdi said.
Syracuse made things difficult on themselves down the stretch, and the culprit, again was turnovers. The Orange turned the ball over on seven straight possessions, allowing Texas A&M to cut the lead to just six.
“In practice we’re not pressing ourselves,” Hillsman said. “We’re not really running our press offense.”
SU weathered the storm, knocking down four free throws in the final minute to ice the game.
“We want to be one of the best teams in the country. And we want to prove to everybody what we can do. Winning these game– important games– is what matters,” Mangakahia said.
Syracuse returns to the Carrier Dome for a true home game on Sunday, November 18 at 2 p.m. against Bucknell.