31-point 3rd quarter launches No. 1 Oregon past No. 17 Syracuse, 81-64

first_img Published on November 24, 2019 at 6:08 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @CraneAndrew Facebook Twitter Google+ By the time Digna Strautmane flashed toward Oregon’s Satou Sabally in the right corner, an offensive rebound had already extended the possession. One quick whistle pierced the air as the two tumbled toward the ground, Sabally still holding out her shooting form. A foul on Strautmane’s closeout would follow, but Satou’s shot still looked promising.To that point in the third quarter, Syracuse’s tight defense had worked. It limited Sabrina Ionescu, the reigning Wooden Award winner who averages a triple-double. It held Ruthy Hebard, Oregon’s leading scorer, scoreless in the first half. But it was a matter of inches, the difference between a successful defensive possession and potential four-point play, that emerged during the second half for Syracuse. Inches late on closing passing lanes. Inches short on converting layups. Satou’s shot went in, as did Ionescu’s after the ensuing free throw rebound. Two offensive rebounds by the Ducks turned a baseline foul by Gabrielle Cooper turned into seven-point swing, and turned Syracuse’s deficit into 16 during the quarter’s final minute.“They got their energy and I think we folded,” Strautmane said. For the first two frames, No. 17 Syracuse (3-1) held its own with No. 1 Oregon (4-0). The 2-3 zone worked how it was supposed to and stifled the Ducks to an uncharacteristic 25% shooting percentage from the field. A spurt from Kiara Lewis in the second quarter had inched the Orange toward a double-digit lead — something Oregon hadn’t faced all season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThen Oregon’s shots started to fall and Syracuse’s didn’t. The Ducks’ shooting percentage and point totals neared normalcy and so did the Orange’s. In Syracuse’s 81-64 loss, the Orange showed they could compete with the country’s top teams. But after allowing 31 Oregon points in the third quarter, a potential upset sulked toward a double-digit defeat.“We gave up 31 points in the first half, gave up 31 points in the (third) quarter,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “You cannot beat the No. 1 team in the country like that.”Twelve months ago, though, this was a matchup that the Orange almost won. Instead of a blowout as the clocked ticked under a minute in the fourth quarter, Syracuse held a six-point lead. They both had the integral playmaker needed to facilitate or take over an offense — Oregon’s Ionescu and SU’s Tiana Mangakahia — and sculpted a roster backed with secondary help.In the time since then, Oregon’s completed its journey to the top of women’s college basketball. Syracuse’s lost its top two players and is looking for answers to ignite its offense. The Ducks had gone 34-5, graduated only two players and three weeks ago beat the USA national team.But during the first 20 minutes, a gap that large didn’t surface. A Lewis steal on the first possession provided a glimmer of hope. A Gabrielle Cooper 3-pointer to give Syracuse its first lead of the game at 12-9 injected more. Oregon missed open looks it usually made — the Ducks shot 9-for-34 in the first half — and after missing open looks of their own, the Orange finally found a way to take advantage. By the time Lewis (23 points) hit three consecutive 3-pointers to open the second quarter and put the Orange up nine, even Hillsman and SU assistant Cedric Solice rose three fingers in the air.Ionescu resorted to head shakes when lanes she wanted closed. She had perched near the free throw line as an entry point into the zone, but quickly returned to the wings. At one point, she swung a no-look pass out on the wing to Taylor Chavez, who took two steps in and missed a jumper. Thirteen missed 3-pointers in the first half eliminated Oregon’s source of offense.“It was pick-a-shot,” Graves said. “I mean we got the shots that we wanted — those are practice 3s, but we had practice misses.”As the half closed, though, problems that plagued the Orange in their opening three games started to re-emerge. Ionescu finally found her cutting lanes through the zone. Oregon’s man-to-man defense finally forced disruptions on passes. Erin Boley started to swish shots from behind the arc. The Orange only trailed by one at halftime, but the Ducks had manufactured a 16-6 run to close the second quarter and create that.Over the final 20 minutes, those same falterings caused that early hope to evaporate completely. Strautmane got around a ball screen for an Ionescu 3 on the wing, but picked up a foul anyway, setting up a Boley 3-pointer off the next set. Then, Ionescu drove past Cooper for a layup and Hillsman thrust his arm on the sidelines begging for a push-off foul.“We were not hustling for balls,” Strautmane said. “We just let them get in the game.”Even a switch to man defense midway through the fourth quarter couldn’t create the disruption present early on. The differences hidden by a productive Syracuse first half shone — one program still trying to claw to the top of women’s college basketball, the other already there.Back in the third quarter, after a 10-point Syracuse deficit extended to 13, Satou corralled her own free throw miss and rotated the ball back. It’s all about spacing after offensive rebounds, she said after the game, so with the clock ticking under five seconds Ionescu popped open on the wing. Cooper got caught in a screen and Taleah Washington was late on a closeout, allowing a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded. Ionescu immediately pumped her first and yelled. Cooper snuck through an Oregon pack chest-bumping toward the Syracuse bench and dropped her head. Sparks of a comeback would still emerge during the fourth quarter — an Emily Engstler steal, two layups that followed — but didn’t combine to collapse Oregon’s lead.Underneath the Carrier Dome bleachers postgame, Hillsman redirected questions that hinted at moral victories and dodged claims looking for glimmers of hope. “I don’t know,” he said about the third quarter. Maybe it was a lack of communication. Maybe a lack of focus, too. After Ionescu’s shot, the “D” and fence poster cutouts that swung through the stands dropped. So did the orange and white pom-poms. Hillsman simply crossed his arms, strolled out to mid-court and shook his head.  Commentslast_img

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