No. 16 Syracuse Drops Tight Battle to No. 12 NC State at Home
By AJ Fabbri
CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
Saddled with three losses already in conference play, No. 16 Syracuse was looking for its biggest ACC win of the season when No. 12 North Carolina State arrived in the Carrier Dome Wednesday night. But an icy cold fourth quarter stunted the Orange (18-6, 7-4 Atlantic Coast) as they fell 77-73 to the Wolfpack (22-2, 9-2 Atlantic Coast).
In a game in which neither team led by more than six, SU recognized that they squandered a golden opportunity to move up in both the ACC standings and national rankings.
“We should’ve had that,” point guard Tiana Mangakahia said. “They’re missing two of their good players. They don’t really have a point guard. We should have won.”
Mangakahia’s nearly heroic effort fell just short. The junior tallied 14 of SU’s last 20 points, but she needed more help from her teammates in crunch time.
The Orange went six of 19 in the final quarter, including a meager one of ten from beyond the arc. The lack of offense stunted SU’s defensive tactics, as they could not run a full court press against NC State.
“We were unsettled for a lot of that fourth quarter. We didn’t get our pressure set,” head coach Quentin Hillsman explained. “At the end of the day we gotta do a better job of hitting shots so we can play the way we wanna play.”
Kiara Leslie made the Orange pay. The grad student posted 20 of her 30 points in the second half, including eight from the charity stripe.
The game featured 15 lead changes and six ties. SU remained within striking distance down the stretch.
NC State held a six point lead with 3:09 to go, looking to salt away the game. But the SU defense forced a shot clock violation, and Mangakahia dropped in a floater at the other end to cut it to four. After another Wolfpack turnover, the Orange seemed primed to storm back into the lead.
With two minutes left, Mangakahia drove and drew an NC State defender into the paint. The SU point guard recognized the advantage, and hit a wide open Digna Strautmane in the left corner. The sophomore’s attempt rounded out, and the Wolfpack corralled the rebound.
A Mangakahia pickpocket of Leslie led to a breakaway that made it 72-70 NC State with just 52 seconds left.
NC State proceeded to throw away an inbounds pass on their side of the court. Mangakahia scooped it up and looked poised to tie the game at 72, but a DD Rogers hack sent Mangakahia to the line with 29 seconds to go.
The second best free throw shooter in the ACC (87.4%) missed her first and made her second, making the score 72-71.
With the shot clock turned off, the Orange was forced to foul. The Wolfpack knocked down their free throws, and SU still could not hit the big three they were looking for.
The loss was Syracuse’s third by four or less points this season.
Mangakahia finished with 25 points on eight of 16 shooting with 10 assists and seven rebounds. Strautmane finished with 11 points and nine rebounds. Miranda Drummond was perfect from deep, tallying nine points on three triples.
Leslie finished with 30 points and ten rebounds, assisted by a 22 point 12 rebound performance from Elissa Cunane and 16 points and 10 rebounds from Rogers.
Syracuse remains sixth in the ACC. The four best regular season teams earn double byes in the ACC tournament.
Next up, SU will honor their seniors against Wake Forest on Sunday at 2 pm in the Carrier Dome.
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