SU Women’s hoops off to hot start

SU Womens hoops off to hot start

Ben Grieco, Staff Writer

One of the stories coming out of Syracuse University after the Men’s Soccer Cinderella story, is the Women’s Basketball team. The SU women are off to a great start, ranked in the top 25 schools in the nation, so there has been debate as to who is the better of the two basketball teams coming out of Syracuse.


With a record of 11-5, they have only lost to whom many consider the toughest teams in the country, including: Notre Dame, South Carolina, Michigan State, Baylor, and Duke. All four teams are in the top twenty for the Associated Press Top 25 Teams. All losses resulted from very close games, with scores being 63-67 against South Carolina; 72-74 against Baylor; 76-98 against Michigan State; and 74-85 against Notre Dame.

On Sunday January 4, the women’s team had a larger crowd in the Dome than they’ve had all year, with an attendance of 2,158 fans. Despite the high number, the Carrier Dome is still depressing when it’s capabilities can hold up to 35,000 fans, typical for a Men’s basketball game.


Early in the game, Syracuse performed well on the defensive and offensive side of the court, scoring 21 points with 11:52 remaining in the first half, with Notre Dame having 25. Top scorers for the Orange were junior Brianna Butler and junior Taylor Ford, both with seven points drained. Leading the blocks, keeping three shots out was the 6’4” sophomore, Briana Day.


Throughout the first half, many fans courtside were not happy with the referees. In women’s basketball rules, if they are on offense they are only allowed to stay in the paint for a maximum of three consecutive seconds, they must then step out, and then are allowed to go back into the paint. Many of Notre Dame’s players were staying in the paint for at least five seconds, and no calls were made by referee Luis Gonzalez.


Later in the first half, the deficit was about the same, with a score of 24-30 in favor of the Fighting Irish. The top scorer for the Orange was still Taylor Ford, who dropped one more three, to get a total of 10 points. Day was still blocking shots, as she had four blocks. The Orange started losing the ball on the offensive side, as they had only eight rebounds, while Notre Dame had 11.


Unfortunately, at 6:03 left in the first half, a devastating injury occurred. Team superstar, who had already been cleared from an ACL and meniscus injury from last March, junior Brittney Sykes, got a steal and ran up the court, but was then stopped and she stayed, crouched under the basket in pain. The coaches ran over to her, and were there for a couple of minutes.


On January 6, it was announced that Sykes is once again out for the season with an ACL injury in her right knee. This is the second injury in ten months for Sykes in the same knee. She is going to have to do the same progression as last year to hopefully return next season, for her final year.


As she walked back, she had tears in her eyes, and was limping and not putting pressure on her right leg. She was able to walk under her own power to the locker room, and only returned  to stay on the bench in the second half with her teammates.


For the remainder of the first half, the score still remained close, and the stats were neck and neck as well. The score was 42-41, still in favor of Notre Dame. Taking over the scoring was now junior Brianna Butler, who helped the Orange by scoring 18 points, a little less than a third of the points for the team.


After half time, opposite things must have happened for the teams. Syracuse must have gotten a talk that taught them to play too conservative, and score no points, while Notre Dame was told drive to the basket and don’t stop. Syracuse came out in a rough playing style, and right from the start; it looked like the game was over.


A Syracuse tradition, for basketball, is to stand up and clap until the first basket is scored by the Orange. The fans legs were getting tired to start out the half, and head coach, Quentin Hillsman, wasn’t happy. The first shot was finally made at 17:47 by Brianna Butler, a three pointer.


At 17:29, the Orange faced their first sign of foul trouble. Briana Day received her fourth foul, and Hillsman benched her immediately. At the time, she only had five points, but she was leading the team with five blocks, out of the team total of six. She was then talked to by Hillsman on the bench, but Day had the courage to talk right back and both were silenced by an assistant coach. Hillsman focussed on the game, and Day focussed on her four fouls.


With many turnovers from Syracuse, Butler was causing most of them. Hillsman was yelling at her for not passing when she should, and not shooting when she should. At 15:00, with the amount of turnovers, and missed shots, Hillsman pulled off a Jim Boeheim and threw off his jacket, and placed it on the bench. He wasn’t happy. He called a timeout, and made what seemed like an entire playbook from an NFL team – but none of the plays worked.


The worst then happened, at 14:27. Coach Hillsman, already not happy with his players, wasn’t happy with the referee’s calls. He yells at referee, Pualani Spurlock and she immediately gives the technical foul symbol. Hillsman sits down, and the Dome went silent. In the middle of the half, Syracuse drew three fouls, only one of them was able to convert the two points.


At 13:00, the Dome heard a new voice. Notre Dame head coach, Muffet McGraw was finally yelling at her girls to do something more on defense. They listen, and they responded. They shut down every aspect of the Orange’s offense.


Syracuse saw some light at 10:27, as they received the bonus, for drawing eight fouls. Taylor Ford drew it, by getting elbowed hard at half court, no technical was given – the Dome was the loudest all night. The next light came at about 9:30, when they took the double bonus, for drawing ten fouls. Alexis Peterson was thrown at the grown by Notre Dame. Just a normal foul called, which could’ve been questioned.


For the last eight minutes, Notre Dame was playing with a fighting attitude. They seemed to be committing a lot of fouls that weren’t being called. The fans weren’t too happy with all three referees. One fan yelled, “How much did Notre Dame pay you guys?”


Syracuse was ending the game with turnovers, fouls, and more turnovers. They all led to way too many points, to help Notre Dame easily pull away from the Orange. Then at 4:43, more foul trouble came with Cornelia Fondren, who had four fouls as well.


Briana Day came in for the final two minutes, and played very conservative. No points for her. But she was causing too many turnovers. Alexis Peterson was still playing hard – her teammates, not so much. They looked like a modified team that wasn’t too great.


At 1:00 left, the unbelievable happened – the referees finally called a three-second violation on Notre Dame, specifically against freshman, Brianna Turner. The fans were ecstatic, and you’d thought they would’ve just won the national title for basketball. But that didn’t help Syracuse. They weren’t grabbing rebounds at all.


At about 40 seconds left in the game, the score was 85-74, advantage on Notre Dame’s side. Fans started exiting the Carrier Dome, to try to get home and forget this horrible loss by the Orange. Senior, Diamond Henderson was trying desperately to get her team going, but it was too late. With 37.5 seconds left, Syracuse used their final timeout. Fans were still leaving, and it was impossible to make a comeback. With five seconds left, the Orange gave up a turnover to end the game, which sent everyone either cheering, or in tears.