No. 3 Syracuse Season Cut Short in Upset Loss to No. 6 South Dakota State
By A.J. Fabbri
Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter
The Carrier Dome was the loudest it had been all season long in the fourth quarter Monday night. Kiara Lewis picked Madison Guebert’s pocket and converted an uncontested layup to complete a 10-0 Syracuse run. The Orange took a 55-53 lead over South Dakota State with 8:28 left in the second round game of the NCAA Tournament.
But, the Orange hit an icy cold streak during the game’s home stretch, which doomed their chances of heading to the Sweet Sixteen.
Three-seeded Syracuse (25-9, 11-5 Atlatic Coast) falls 75-64 to sixth seeded South Dakota State (28-6, 15-1 Summit League).
“You can’t end the game 1 of 11 [from the field],” Head Coach Quentin Hillsman said. “That does it alone.”
The Summit League champion Jackrabbits finished the game on a 14-2 scoring run, thanks to clutch shooting from Guebert. She drilled two of her six-made triples on back-to-back possessions in the fourth to give the Jackrabbits a decisive 67-62 lead.
“We just had confidence in each other… there was never really a sense of panic,” Guebert explained. “We knew that if we kept into our system and moving the ball that we were gonna knock down shots and that we were gonna be alright.”
A double-digit victory seemed out of the reach for SDSU early when SU clamped down on defense. The Jackrabbits went more than two minutes without a point during the second quarter as Gabrielle Cooper hit a triple from the right corner, giving SU its largest lead of the game at 36-24.
On the next possession, SDSU’s leading scorer Macy Miller, who had been held in check early, absorbed contact from Digna Strautmane and converted the jumper and one. From there, the Jackrabbits crawled their way back within two before the halftime break.
Syracuse seemed poised to run away with it in the second frame, but that South Dakota State run showed the game was still up for grabs.
“We didn’t just let them just keep rolling along. And, two, we just started to make some plays offensively. We found a plan that worked a little bit better against their zone than what we did in the first quarter,” SDSU Head Coach Aaron Johnston said.
This is third year in a row Syracuse has failed to emerge from the first weekend of the tournament since their national championship game appearance in 2015-16. At 25-9, the SU season was by no means a disappointment. The Orange were ranked within the top-25 the entire year and made it to the semifinals of the ACC Tournament, the most competitive college basketball conference in the country.
Nevertheless, the home defeat left the three-seed shocked.
“We could have played this in a rec center and we would have been stunned the same way. A loss is a loss,” Hillsman said. “You fight to get home court. We played all year long to get home court. To get two games here, we win here, and tonight South Dakota State was the better team. They played fantastic, and you can’t take anything away from them.”
South Dakota State shot 45.8 percent from the floor Monday night, executing nine of 21 from deep. Guebert nailed six of 12 from distance, finishing with 20 total points.
Syracuse on finished five of 21 from deep. The Orange were 1-3 when they made five or fewer triples this season.
Looking forward to next season, Miranda Drummond has played her final game in an SU uniform. She finishes as SU’s all-time leader in three point field goal percentage (38.5).
“I thought we played hard this season. We had our fans backing us up from day one and we really appreciate our fans. It’s a tough loss and there is a lot to take away from it” Drummond said.
Tiana Mangakahia has some decisions to make this offseason. She still has one year left of college eligibility, but she could declare for the WNBA draft.
“I haven’t made that decision yet. I have to talk to my parents and family, if teams want me,” the point guard said.
She sits atop the program leaderboard in assists per game at 9.6 and career assists with 591.
“If she’s ready to go, she should go,” Hillsman said.