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No. 20 Syracuse opened conference play with a 69-58 win over Miami on Thursday night. Despite 21 turnovers, Syracuse remained in control for the entirety of the game and never relinquished its lead.
Here are three takeaways from Syracuse’s fourth win of the season:
Kiara Lewis dictated the pace during the second quarter
Following six turnovers and two fouls in the first quarter, Tiana Mangakahia didn’t see the floor for the second quarter. Kiara Lewis filled in for Mangakahia at point guard, running the floor and dictating the pace of the game for SU, much like she did last year. She picked out quick passes downcourt but spent much of the second quarter slowing the game’s tempo by holding the ball at the top of the arc.
Lewis called for numerous one-on-ones, taking as many as 10 seconds to dribble in place before choosing her moment and driving toward the basket. In the final seconds of the half, Lewis held the ball before taking, and missing, a right-handed layup through contact. She kicked a pass out to Priscilla Williams on the following play. With the shot clock turned off, Lewis pulled up in the paint and clanked another shot off the rim.
Mangakahia would return in the third quarter, and Lewis finished with seven points after putting up a game-high 26 against Penn State. Syracuse had turned to far more individual play without Mangakahia or freshman Kamilla Cardoso, who also had two first-quarter fouls.
“We were able to set our defense a little bit better because they weren’t stretching us as much,” Miami head coach Katie Meier said. “I like our chances when they had some foul trouble, I thought we played ‘em even when that was the situation.”
Mangakahia’s return in the third quarter brought balance to SU. She showed more poise with her passes in the second half, finishing with the nine turnovers — only three of which came after she was benched. But in the final two minutes, she limped off the floor with an apparent leg injury.
Kamilla Cardoso’s rebounds on both ends fueled Syracuse
In the game’s opening two minutes, Cardoso received a pass from Mangakahia right under the basket, which she converted into the game’s first score. After retreating to the other end of the court seconds later, she jumped between a Miami pass for a steal that Syracuse turned into three points from Digna Strautmane.
Cardoso positioned herself under the rim on the next play, which came after another steal. She missed a layup on the first and second attempt but grabbed her rebound both times and converted the third chance from inside the paint.
She notched eight rebounds, four of which came on each end. Cardoso was used sparsely in the second quarter, but the 6-foot-7 freshman finished tied with Mangakahia for the team’s most points (14).
“(Syracuse’s) a very, very difficult team to stop defensively, Meier said. “It took a lot of effort to hold them under 70.”
Defensively, her height anchored SU in the center of its 2-3 zone. In the first quarter, Miami’s Destiny Harden drove straight at Cardoso, who stood just under the net. Cardoso put both hands up, and only needed a small hop to reject the shot. Syracuse drove down the other end and scored another three points off one of Strautmane’s three 3-pointers.
Emily Engstler kept Syracuse in control
In a three-on-two situation late in the third quarter, with Syracuse down a player on a Miami fast break, Emily Engstler quickly shuffled to the left side. She jumped with her right hand in the air, and Miami’s Nyayongah Gony air-balled the 3-pointer.
Engstler returned for the first time this season against Penn State, recording eight rebounds in 19 minutes of play. She had nine rebounds and seven points in 29 minutes on Thursday, her most playing time of the season. Though she attempted a putback while facing her own basket in the first half, she also grabbed her own offensive rebound twice during that sequence.
She connected with Lewis on a sequence of back-and-forth passes to move the ball up-court during the second quarter, setting up the redshirt senior guard for an easy layup. On another occasion, she fired a long, cross-court pass that found Williams, who stepped back and drained a wide-open 3-pointer.
Midway through the second quarter, she received the ball in the post. She turned, swerved the ball to the left of her defender and finished with a powerful drive to the bucket and a clean layup off the glass.
Engstler’s all-around play was and will continue to be crucial as Syracuse looks to win its fifth straight game against Binghamton on Sunday.
Published on December 10, 2020 at 10:13 pm