Fast reactions: 3 quick takeaways from Syracuse’s 94-64 season-ending loss to Connecticut
Evan Jenkins | Staff Photographer
Eighth-seeded Syracuse (22-11, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) couldn’t keep up with top-seeded Connecticut (34-0, 16-0 American Athletic) in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Monday night in a 94-64 loss. Brittney Sykes hit a deep 3-pointer to put the Orange up 3-2 early, but that would be the last lead Syracuse had all game.
Here are three quick takeaways from season-ending SU’s loss
Syracuse’s defensive identity is its full-court press, which it deploys basically all game. The Orange’s goal is to turn the other team over and get extra possessions.
But UConn didn’t seem at all fazed by SU’s scheme, consistently breaking the press with ease. The Huskies didn’t really try dribbling past it. Rather, they found success early by spreading three players out in the backcourt. They’d work the ball around before someone would streak down the middle of the court. An outlet pass was thrown and UConn would get straight to the bucket.
Connecticut ended the game with 10 turnovers and had 30 assists to go with that. The Orange’s signature defense was reduced to nothing against the best team in the nation.
Nursing the lead
Once SU’s press was broken early, it started giving up easy buckets inside. So in subsequent possessions, the Orange was scrambling to try and prevent those buckets.
A by-product of that was a lot of open shots from behind the arc for UConn’s Kia Nurse. She took advantage of those looks.
Nurse shot 8-of-10 from deep in the first half. On most of the early 3s she made, she’d find herself open behind the arc. Nurse would drill the shot, then pump her first in the direction of whichever teammate passed the ball. On her seventh made 3-pointer, she put her head down and started shaking it with a smile.
Nurse’s previous high for 3s in a game was six. On her last attempt of the first half, Syracuse’s Gabby Cooper closed out with a hand in Nurse’s face. But she drilled it anyway, smiling as she ran back to play defense.
She ended up tying the record for 3s made in an NCAA Tournament game with nine.
Going down with a fight
Star point guard Alexis Peterson, the ACC’s Player of the Year, struggled in last year’s national championship game loss to UConn. She shot 5-of-15, scoring 11 points and turning the ball over four times while picking up just one assist. She couldn’t put anything together.
The first quarter looked like more of the same for Peterson. She had four turnovers in the frame, and couldn’t keep her dribble alive and find open shots.
But from that point on, Peterson put on a show for SU’s offense. She only had one more turnover after that, and she led the Orange by pouring in 25 points. She scored every which way — from deep, pulling up from midrange and with crafty finishes around the hoop.
It wasn’t the way SU and its star player wanted the season to end, but Peterson went out with a bang.
Published on March 20, 2017 at 8:32 pm