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Sunday, Feb 17, 2019 at 6:56 pm

No. 16 Syracuse Uses 4th Quarter Surge in Senior Day Victory

By A.J. Fabbri

CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter

After a tough-luck loss to No. 12 North Carolina State earlier this week, No. 16 Syracuse (19-6, 8-4 Atlantic Coast) bounced back with a hard-earned 77-57 victory over Wake Forest (10-15, 1-11) on Senior Day in the Carrier Dome Sunday afternoon.

The struggling Demon Deacons stayed within striking distance for most of the game, but the Orange used a 24-11 fourth quarter to shut the door on a potential upset bid.

“No matter where you are in the standings, the games get a little more desperate,” Head Coach Quentin Hillsman explained. “I don’t expect blowouts this time of year. I expect close games.”

This Syracuse team thrives on shooting threes. They are currently first in the ACC in three pointers made at 9.7 triples per game.

Wake Forest apparently didn’t get that memo as the Orange drilled three straight deep balls to open up the game on a 9-2 run. But after an Isis Young triple put SU up by 10 points, the Demon Deacons buckled down.

Lindsey Jarosinski’s layup capped off a 6-0 Wake run that tied the game at 23 with six minutes to go in the first half. The Orange struggled with Wake’s interior game, as the Deacs had 18 points in the paint and 12 offensive boards in the first half alone.

“It’s different watching them on film. You don’t know how big they are until you look down in the warmup,” Tiana Mangakahia said.

SU was able to create some separation before the break, however. After Wake’s Alexa Sharp missed two free throws, Miranda Drummond hit her fourth three of the half to make it 36-27. Mangakahia then stole an errant Wake Forest inbounds pass and layed it in. The 5-0 swing stretched the lead to 11 before halftime.

The Orange seemed poised to close out the upset bid in the early parts of the third quarter. Mangakahia hit a pair of triples on back-to-back  possessions, tying SU’s largest lead of the game at the time, 45-34.

The Deacs continued to hang around. Ivana Raca’s three cut it to eight, and Raegyn Branch’s layup made it 45-39.

Wake tried to catch the Orange off guard to open up the fourth quarter, as they switched from a man to man defense to a zone look.

It didn’t work, as Emily Engstler drove and kicked to a wide open Digna Strautmane, who drilled the deep ball to give SU a 60-48 lead with a little over eight minutes to go in the game. The three sparked a 9-2 run that would seal SU’s 19th victory.

“We did a better job locking down,” Hillsman said of his team’s defensive effort in the final quarter. “We made an adjustment to cover their high post and take their dive away.”

Drummond finished 5 of 9 from three point range for 17 points to lead the Orange. Mangakahia finished with 15 points, nine assists and six rebounds.

Senior Raven Fox tallied two points in six minutes of play.

Brandi Fowler, the lone SU senior who has spent the last four seasons with the team, recorded an assist in two minutes of play.

Curiously, Mangakahia, who is listed as a junior, was celebrated as part of the senior day festivities. The Australian could potentially be playing her last year in an Orange uniform, but she’s still undecided about her future.

“I’m just focused on this season, trying to get to a national championship game. Then I’ll decide,” Mangakahia said.

The Orange will return to the Carrier Dome on Thursday to host Pittsburgh at 7 pm.

ajfabbri@syr.edu | @armand_john