Syracuse’s five scorers ignite strong second half in 72-62 comeback win over Drexel

first_img Published on December 9, 2017 at 9:33 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham For the fifth time in 10 games this season, Syracuse trailed at halftime. Drexel shot an efficient 47.4 percent from the field and had outscored SU in the paint, 20-10. Senior guard Megan Marecic finished 5-of-6 from 3.Syracuse, meanwhile, didn’t have a double-digit scorer after 20 minutes and had hit only nine shots from the floor. If not for an 11-of-12 mark from the free-throw line, the Orange would’ve headed for the locker room trailing by much more than eight.“First half we were sluggish,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said.Five players did all the scoring for Syracuse, combining for 39 second-half points, and SU (10-0) came back and topped Drexel (6-4), 72-62, Saturday evening in the Carrier Dome. Digna Strautmane led the way with 19, while usual suspects Miranda Drummond and Tiana Mangakahia chipped in 17 and 16, respectively. Gabrielle Cooper and Isis Young added 10 each. Midway through the third quarter, Hillsman “shortened” the bench to keep the hot hands on the floor.“We had a really good second half,” Hillsman said. “… Got five players in double-digit scoring, shortened our rotation a little bit.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textIn the first quarter, the 1,471 fans in the Dome stood and clapped in rhythm for 2:51 until Drummond hit a 3 for Syracuse’s first field goal of the game. The slow start served as a microcosm for the struggles SU endured offensively for the first 20 minutes of the contest.Just like the Orange, the Dragons employ a 2-3 zone scheme on defense. In the first half, though, DU’s on-ball defense was frenzied.Mangakahia couldn’t find edges to slip past a defender because another arm waited on either side of her to impede progress. Shooters, like Cooper and Young, were closed out with a hand in their face before they locked onto their target. Strautmane and fellow freshman big, Amaya Finklea-Guity, struggled to find enough space to receive an entry pass and when they did, challenges from Drexel bigs forced awkward, low-percentage shots.“We didn’t scramble … we missed some matchups,” Hillsman said.But in the second half, the offense opened up.“Shots were dropping,” Mangakahia said of the second half, “first half we couldn’t hit anything.”In the first 3:24 of the third quarter, SU blitzed DU for 10 points and opened up the second half with a 12-2 run. In that run, Cooper and Strautmane both hit 3s. Cooper hit from the corner, Strautmane from the wing. To counteract, Drexel stretched its defense further out, opening up space for Strautmane to operate down low.By the end of the third quarter, Strautmane had added nine points to her total. Drexel as a team managed just eight in the period. The Orange found something that worked.“We were making a really good run,” Hillsman said, “so we got everything settled and locked into that unit and they did an excellent job of closing the game out.”With Strautmane (nine points) and Drummond (five) starting to warm after stagnant first halves, Hillsman subbed less. Jasmine Nwajei and Raven Fox, who average more than 10 minutes a night each, didn’t play in the second half.The only substitution Hillsman made at all in the second half was Young for Finklea-Guity and vice versa. The other four starters — Mangakahia, Cooper, Drummond and Strautmane — never came off the floor. For the final 5:16, Hillsman didn’t sub at all.Paring the rotation down to six players kept the hot hands on the floor for longer. Cooper scored eight of her 10 points in the second half.Not even a minute into the fourth quarter, SU swung the ball around the outside. Young caught a pass and saw a hand in her face, so she made the extra pass to Cooper, who with just enough breathing room, elevated and canned a 3 right in front of Syracuse’s bench to put SU up 12.Cooper’s teammate, Desiree Elmore, had already risen from her seat and stuck three fingers in the air while the ball arced toward the hoop. When it ripped through the net, Elmore hopped on the court and swung her right fist across her body.It was SU’s largest lead of the night, and one that shrunk to as little as three, but never went away.“We just push through,” Drummond said, “even when we’re down. I guess we just have a totally different mindset in the second half.”After playing one of its worst halves of the season, SU needed to be a different team in the second half. Thanks to some timely shooting and a tighter rotation, it was. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more