Orange advance in ACC Tournament despite Mangakahia injury

Orange advance despite Mangakahia injury

Kiara Lewis, SU defense guide SU women's basketball past BC 67-61.
Published: March 4, 2021 | Updated: March 6th, 2021 at 11:16 am
Syracuse forward Emily Engstler (21) grabs a rebound
Syracuse's Emily Engstler (21) pulls in the rebound between Boston College's Makayla Dickens (10) and Ally Vantimmeren (12) during the first half of Boston College’s game against Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

The ACC Women’s Tournament kicked off Wednesday with a bye for the Orange, but they still opened play Thursday with a 67-61 victory over Boston College. Syracuse was without five players, most notably star point guard and 2021 Bob Bradley Spirit and Courage Award winner Tiana Mangakahia, but Kiara Lewis and Emily Engstler led the team in her absence.

Lewis built on a season-high 29 points in the regular season finale with a 21-point performance. Four players were suspended for the game due to a violation of team rules, but Mangakahia missed the matchup with a lower body injury announced just prior to the game, and was noticeably limping on the bench.

Engstler, ACC co-sixth player of the year, filled the hole in the lineup for the Orange, but Lewis transitioned to point guard for Mangakahia.

In the first quarter, the Orange jumped ahead early despite finding themselves in foul trouble. Lewis hit a midrange jump shot to put the Orange up 9-7 but also committed the team’s third charge of the opening frame.

The Eagles took a brief lead in the first, 11-10, but following her charge, Lewis attacked the basket with a flurry of moves and drew back-to-back and-one layups. She converted both three-point plays to put the Orange back on top 16-11 heading into the second quarter.

ACC Defensive Player of the Year Kamilla Cardoso exited the game with 5:14 remaining in the first after her second foul. Frustration boiled over on the bench as she slammed her water bottle off the court, but she channeled her benching into a crushing block when she returned in the second.

The Eagles came into the game on an emotional high, winning the day before 67-56 against Pittsburgh. SU weathered the early attack as BC tied the game at 21, but Engstler pushed the ball down the floor and hit a long two for her first points of the game.

With most players out of position due to lineup changes, the first half was sloppy on the offensive end. Without Mangakahia, the nation’s leader in assists per game, SU only managed five assists and committed eight turnovers.

Defensively, Syracuse outrebounded BC by five in the first half and held the Eagles to 32.1% from the field. The Orange only hit 37.9% of their shots but hit three triples to BC’s one.

Lewis and Engstler stuffed the stat sheet en route to a 31-27 halftime lead. Lewis led both teams with 13 points on 4-of-11 shooting. Englster was a force on the glass, pulling down 10 rebounds, seven more than any other player, and finished with 15. After the game, she was asked how she succeeded so often on the glass.

“I don’t know.  They kind of fell to me, but I was going up strong,” Engstler said. “I felt a little bouncy. I couldn’t really make a lot of my shots, so I guess I figured let me do something else that kind of can help us get a win. Every time I went for a rebound, regardless if they grabbed me or not grabbed me, I was stuck like glue. I was catching everything.”

Syracuse guard Kiara Lewis (23) cuts to the basket.
Syracuse's Kiara Lewis (23) drives to the basket as Boston College's Taylor Soule (13) defends during the first half of Boston College’s game against Syracuse in the second round of the ACC Women’s Basketball Tournament.

‘Cuse widened the gap to open the third as ACC Freshman of the Year Cardoso scored over two Eagles. As BC surged with quick possessions and baskets, Engstler hit a three in transition to keep the lead 36-31.

Digna Strautmane pestered Boston College all afternoon with tenacious defending. To end the first quarter, she swatted away a potential buzzer beating 3-pointer, and she dove to the floor for a steal in the third.

Her defense inspired her offense as she jumped into double-digit scoring with her third triple of the game, giving ‘Cuse a 41-31 lead with over six minutes remaining in the third. SU had made 5-of-13 from beyond the arc to BC’s 1-10 through more than two quarters.

Despite leading for most of the game, the Orange’s frustration brewed without their point guard. After Lewis’s fourth turnover, she looked exasperated with the lack of movement on the court. The Eagles led the conference in steals and routinely disrupted SU passing lanes.

Heading into the fourth, SU held a 46-37 lead, but the Eagles weren’t backing away easily. BC was 1-of-16 from three entering the quarter, but Makayla Dickens hit three triples to open the fourth, cutting the lead to 48-45.

Cardoso picked up her fourth personal with over seven minutes remaining and found herself back on the bench. Amaya Finklea-Guity saw increased minutes with the inactive teammates and foul trouble. She posted a season-high 12 points, and her contribution was lauded by head coach Quentin Hillsman after the game.

“I was saving her for today,” Hillsman said. “This was all planned, man. No, Amaya has been great. And obviously today when she stepped in and we threw the ball to her and she did a great job in the post and scoring the basketball. She just stayed ready. We know what she can do.”

Syracuse managed the early surge by the Eagles through team defense and a scoring run by Lewis. She converted another and-one opportunity and spun her defender to the ground for a layup to push her total to 20 points.

Not to be denied, BC climbed back late to bring the score within five. Syracuse went more than two minutes without scoring in the final four minutes of the game, but they broke through after a timeout.

With three seconds left on the shot clock, fresh off a timeout, the ball was inbounded to Engstler under the basket, but she missed the shot. The rebound kicked around to Strautmane for her eighth rebound of the game, and she laid it off to Engstler to put the Orange in control, 60-53.

Boston College kept the game close throughout the fourth, and with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, hit their fifth three of the quarter to cut the lead to 63-61. The Eagles began to intentionally foul, but Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi hit both free throws to ice the game.

The large lineup helped the Orange secure seven more rebounds and 10 more points in the paint on the afternoon, but without Mangakahia, the team committed 15 turnovers to BC’s 10. Lewis filled in admirably with five assists, but Syracuse will need more guards moving forward.

The Orange advance in the ACC Tournament and will play Florida State tomorrow at 2:30 p.m. SU will look to avenge their 67-52 loss to the Seminoles from the regular season.

“It’s pretty much about getting our defense set,” Hillsman said. “They really tightened us in transition. We didn’t make shots in that game at Florida State and we really played unsettled. Hopefully we can get back, play more settled, keep everything in front of us and do a better job.”

2021 ACC Women's Basketball Tournament
Syracuse's guard Tiana Mangakahia (4) is honored with the Bob Bradley Award during the 2021 New York Life ACC Women's Basketball Tournament.