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Saturday, Mar 23, 2019 at 7:00 pm

No. 3 Syracuse Uses Big 4th Quarter to Take Down No. 14 Fordham

By A.J. Fabbri

CitrusTV Women’s Basketball Reporter

With No. 3 Syracuse leading No. 14 Fordham by just nine points heading into the fourth quarter, the small contingent of Rams fans in the Carrier Dome was bustling, eager for an upset.

But their excitement was quickly washed away after back to back three pointers from Tiana Mangakahia and Digna Strautmane pushed the lead to 15.

The Orange (25-8, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) would proceed to outscore the Rams (25-9, 13-3 Atlantic 10) by 12 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 70-49 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“The lapse came in transition,” Fordham head coach Stephanie Gaitley explained. “We let Digna get open for that three. It was a back breaker.”

Strautmane’s triple made it 57-42, their largest lead since the three minute mark of the second quarter.

Although the final margin was 21 points, that is not indicative how close the Rams kept things throughout the first three quarters. The A-10 champions actually led 15-14 at the end of the first frame. After not playing in a competitive game for exactly two weeks, it took the Orange a few minutes to get back into the swing of things.

“We just had to knock the rust off a little bit,” junior guard Gabrielle Cooper admitted.

SU did just that, taking command in the second quarter.

After a Gabrielle Cooper three gave Syracuse a 17-14 lead, freshman Emily Engstler notched a put-back layup then stole an errant Ram pass, leading to a Maeve Djaldi-Tabdi bucket.

That was part of a 14-0 run that put the Orange in control 28-15 with 7:39 to go in the first half.

Engstler’s contributions were especially relieving, considering the freshman hadn’t played in the team’s last five games due to disciplinary reasons.

“You have to buckle down and be a college student athlete,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said of Engstler. “She’s done that. She’s been remarkable over the past three or four weeks and I’m very happy for her.”

Fordham fought back in the third, as three different Rams combined for four three pointers. The Rams only allowed SU to attempt one three in the quarter, running the Orange off of the three point line.

But behind Mangakahia’s near triple-double (21 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds) and Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi’s reliable interior play (10 points), the Orange fended off any semblance of an upset in the Carrier Dome.

With the win, Syracuse remains undefeated in NCAA Tournament inside the Carrier Dome (3-0). The Orange will play 6th seeded South Dakota State in the second round on Monday. Gametime is TBA.

The Jackrabbits defeated the 11th seed Quinnipiac Bobcats 76-65 earlier on Saturday behind 28 points from guard Macy Miller.

Interestingly enough, Hillsman admitted that he adopted a lot of SDSU’s offensive sets after watching film on them randomly in the offseason.

“They’re just a very good basketball team. Very well coached,” Hillsman said of SDSU. “It’s gonna be a fantastic college basketball game.”

ajfabbri@syr.edu | @armand_john