Syracuse’s magical run falls 1 game short of title in 82-51 loss to Connecticut

first_imgEvan Jenkins | Staff Photographer Utilizing that same full-court press defense and quick-strike offense, Syracuse turned things around with a 16-0 run in the third quarter.“We’re never going to be the victim,” Hillsman said. “Victims lay down.”But even that run wasn’t enough to stop the Huskies from winning their 73rd consecutive game. It only trimmed a 33-point deficit to 17.Hillsman described the matchup on Monday between two teams, “one that’s great, one that’s trying to be great.” While his team was for a stretch, only UConn achieved what it wanted.“Streaks are meant to end,” UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said on Monday before pausing. “Some day.”Tuesday wasn’t that day.After losing to No. 2 Notre Dame by 11 points in the ACC championship game, Hillsman boldly proclaimed that his team could still be playing one month later.“Everybody starts off 0-0,” Hillsman said, “so we should get two games at home, we play pretty well at home. We should have moved up somewhere 4 seed, we should be a pretty high 4 seed, go on the road to a very favorable matchup, win those two, Final Four, win that one, championship game, win that one, cut down some nets.“Normally that’s how it works.”Each part of Hillsman’s path went exactly according to plan until Tuesday.SU’s matchup with women’s basketball’s goliath was too much to handle. And for the fourth straight season, UConn was the team celebrating on the season’s final day. It’s not how Hillsman envisioned it, but for the rest of the sport, that’s how it works. Comments INDIANAPOLIS — Cornelia Fondren walked off the court and hugged Quentin Hillsman. Then she hugged Alexis Peterson. And then she took a seat on the bench and watched the final minute of her career tick off the clock. She joined Brittney Sykes, Brianna Butler and Taylor Ford, the group that made up Syracuse’s best senior class in program history as their magical season of firsts came to an end one short of the ultimate prize.Sykes stood on the sideline with tears in her eyes absorbing the moment.“I was just taking in the last few seconds on the clock to realize what we accomplished this year,” she said. “…We’re going to forever remember this feeling.”As the confetti rained down from the rafters at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Fondren walked to the locker room with her jersey pulled up over her eyes. Peterson walked off the court with a smile on her face waving to the crowd. After setting record after record, it was Connecticut celebrating the most significant one on Tuesday night.For the first time in women’s college basketball history, a team won its fourth consecutive national championship. No. 1 seed Connecticut (38-0, 18-0 American Athletic) beat No. 4 seed Syracuse (30-8, 13-3 Atlantic Coast), 82-51, to claim its 11th title in program history.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhen Breanna Stewart, the North Syracuse native and former No. 1 recruit in the country, was a freshman at UConn, she said her goal was to win four rings. Mission accomplished.“Well, you come here to win the game, obviously,” said Hillsman, SU’s head coach. “I thought in spurts we played pretty good, but we have to be able to rebound the ball and do the little things to beat great teams.”Within the first six minutes of the game, center Briana Day picked up two fouls. After each one, both she and Hillsman complained to the refs. But just like everything else Syracuse did on Tuesday, it didn’t matter. Nothing could derail the Huskies on its coronation night, even a 16-point third-quarter run.Sykes hit the Orange’s first basket of the game, but on UConn’s next possession, Stewart answered with a mid-range jumper. Taylor Ford hit SU’s first 3 of the night, but on UConn’s next possession Morgan Tuck backed down Bria Day and made her layup at the rim look easy. Brianna Butler, the nation’s leader in 3-pointers, hit her first. But on UConn’s next possession Moriah Jefferson beat the buzzer with a 3 of her own while falling down.At the end of the first quarter, SU was already down by 15.“I don’t think it was nerves at all,” Sykes said. “We came into the game just as confident as UConn was. We were just rushing some shots and we weren’t really getting our defense set up.”A month ago, Peterson said Syracuse could compete with the best team in the country. After winning 16 of its last 17 games, the Orange couldn’t. Seemingly every time SU made a successful play, it was followed up with an unsuccessful one. Connecticut picked apart Syracuse’s full-court press, its half-court 2-3 zone and dominated by getting fouled and making 20 shots from the free-throw line. Published on April 5, 2016 at 10:48 pm Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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