Story and photos by Chelsea Brobst
The last game between Virginia and Syracuse was decided with less than a second left. On Nov. 24, 2012, Elashier Hall made a pair of free throws to give Syracuse a 74-73 win in the San Juan Shootout. This time the game wasn’t quite as dramatic. With a few minutes left in the game, Syracuse managed to pull away and win 84-75.
After a first half that saw Syracuse (15-5, 4-3 ACC) commit 16 turnovers, Sophomore Brittney Sykes scored 18 points in the second half to help lead her team to victory. With a total of 27 points, Sykes now has a new career high.
Head coach Quentin Hillsman was pleased with Sykes performance and her ability to battle the whole game. “Today was about Brittney Sykes’ willingness to win," Hillsman said. “Once she gets going and she gets out in transition she’s tough. She becomes more aggressive when the game gets on the line. I tell her every day. You don’t score, we lose.”
Hillsman was also pleased with the play of Senior Rachel Coffey. “Today Rachel Coffey was tremendous. She made shots, she didn’t turn the ball over and every time we needed a big shot and she was open, she knocked it down,” Hillsman said.
Virginia (10-10, 3-4 ACC) head coach Joanne Boyle agreed that Coffey was a difference maker in the game. “Good players show up when they’re needed.” Coffey was one of three Syracuse players to reach double digits. She finished with 17 points and was 5-8 from behind the arc.
One of Coffey’s better shots came as the first half was ending. She hit a big 3 pointer at the buzzer to give her team a 37-33 cushion heading into the break. She admitted after the game that she didn't expect it to go in and it was more luck than anything else.
Sophomore Brianna Butler had 12 assists and 16 points for her first double-double and was the third Syracuse player to reach double digits. She also had seven defensive rebounds to aid the comeback.
Hillsman said that he has told Butler and Sykes that they need to score in order for the team to have success. “If we don’t score it’s because you two aren’t scoring.”
Sykes agreed with Hillsman’s statement that she has to step up for her team especially in the second half. “I have to be there for my team when needed. It’s just the second half is when you figure out what you did wrong in the first half and you critique it and you fix it.”
Syracuse’s cutting down on turnovers in the second half caused the Virginia offense to stall. In the first half the Cavaliers were able to capitalize on the Syracuse turnovers. In the second half Virginia only managed five points off turnovers.
Sarah Imovbioh and Kelsey Wolfe did their best to keep the Cavaliers in the game, combining for a total of 39 points. But in the end, Syracuse proved to be too much for them.
Syracuse has a tough road ahead as the Orange women will be taking on two top-10 teams this week. The Orange will head to North Carolina to take on the Tar Heels Thursday night. That game is followed by a home matchup with the University of Maryland next Sunday.
Syracuse Press Conference Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFGnSz65Fow&feature=youtu.be