Home warriors: Syracuse women’s basketball goes 7-0 in Dome, beats Wake Forest 85-78

Women's hoops remains undefeated in Dome, tops WF 85-78

Digna Strautmane scored a season-high 17 points in the Orange's victory over the Demon Deacons.
Published: February 4, 2021
NCAA Womens Basketball: Wake Forest at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange forward Digna Strautmane (45)takes a shot against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in the second quarter at the Carrier Dome.

Honored for surpassing 1,000 points prior to the start of the game, Digna Strautmane stayed true to that by putting up a career-high 17-point game and helped lift the Syracuse women’s basketball team to a 85-78 win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.

In only their ninth matchup, Syracuse leads the all-time series against the Demon Deacons 6-2, but both teams were looking for a rebound win after both facing losses in their last in-conference contests. Plus, with Wake Forest edging out the Orange by a mere five points in last season’s battle, Syracuse was eager to grab another win against their ACC opponent.

Unfortunately for the Demon Deacons, the Orange have been hot at home, winning all seven of their games in the Dome so far this season.

“Tonight was just a huge win for us, just to take care of our home court” said head coach Quentin Hillsman of the win. “We’re undefeated at home so that feels good.”

Tiana Mangakahia was announced as a Top-10 finalist for the Nancy Lieberman award for the third time in her career earlier this week. Mangakahia topped the leaderboard in Thursday’s game, putting up five assists on the night.

Kamilla Cardoso won the tipoff for the Orange and Syracuse headed straight for the basket, but their early game jitters got the best of them, and they threw the ball out of bounds. But Wake Forest wasn’t quite grounded yet either as a travel call sent the ball back down to the other end. Cardoso’s two missed attempts brought the ball down to the other end on a rebound, but a missed Demon Deacon shot led to Strautmane dropping a three for the Orange just over a minute into the first quarter.

Great formation on the ‘Cuse end put the ball in Strautmane’s hands under the basket but before she could go up with it, Alexandria Scruggs fouled her and she was unable to get the shot off. Another foul under the hoop for Wake Forest’s Scruggs sent Cardoso to the line but she was unable to capitalize on the free throws.

The Demon Deacons finally got their first points of the game just over 3:30 into the quarter but Kiara Lewis was quick to answer with two of her own. Wake Forest wasn’t done yet as they tied the game at five immediately after. Strautmane rolled in a bucket to put Syracuse back up by two, but after some back and forth, a jump ball call gave possession back to Wake Forest and the Demon Deacons had another chance to tie up the game or grab the lead from the Orange.

On the sidelines, Hillsman lost his glasses and mask after getting fired up over a foul call on Mangakahia, but with the ball still in the hands of Wake Forest, the Demon Deacons were unable to sink anything. Emily Engstler took it back to the other end and followed her missed shot through but still couldn’t put up the points for Syracuse.

Strong offense from Wake Forest helped them tie the game, and a quick steal and layup from Gina Conti gave them their first lead of the game. With Syracuse unable to answer, the Demon Deacons grabbed the rebound and put up another two to elevate them to 11-7.

Lewis was hot from well beyond the arc and brought Syracuse within one. A screaming Hillsman fired his team up from the sidelines, and Cardoso popped in another two to regain the lead 12-11. Jewel Spear returned the favor for Wake Forest and sank a three to put the Demon Deacons up by two with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. Cardoso was sent to the line for the second time on the night and sunk both free throws to tie the game at 14 with three to go in the first.

Quick movement to the basket resulted in a solid attempt by Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, but the basket didn’t go. Conti found an open spot on the other end and sunk three to flip the first quarter score once again. But Djaldi-Tabdi was looking for revenge after her previously missed shot and was able to finish this time. Conti sunk another two to strengthen the Wake Forest lead to three but Strautmane brought the Orange back within two with under a minute to play in the first.

Within just one point with under 30 to go, Djaldi-Tabdi’s foul led to an Orange turnover and Syracuse was unable to even the score before the first quarter buzzer went off.

Strong defense at the start of the second quarter sent Lewis running after the ball in an attempt to keep the ball in bounds, but it was too late. Following the turnover, Wake Forest faced a tough defensive wall put up by Syracuse and the ball headed in the other direction once again. That didn’t last long though as the Demon Deacons regained possession and sunk a quick two to strengthen their lead to three.

Movement outside the arc gave Strautmane a good look to sink another bucket but her missed shot brought the ball back down into the Wake Forest zone. A foul on Priscilla Williams sent her to the line and she was able to bring the Orange back within two. Spear outplayed the Orange defense, and she was able to pop in three more for the Demon Deacons.

A questionable change in possession ended in a Syracuse rebound in the Wake Forest end and Cardoso finished the play off with a quick jumper in the paint. Williams launched the ball toward the bucket, but it didn’t go, and it was headed back toward the Wake Forest end for another two after some Orange defensive miscommunication.

Lewis flung one left of the basket but it was short lived in the Demon Deacon end as a foul sent the Orange back on the offensive drive. A quick spin-around move for Djaldi-Tabdi helped her best the Wake Forest defense and add another two to the Orange tally. Williams was left wide open on the right side and she popped a three pointer up and in, finally tying the game up at 26 apiece.

At the line, Christina Moora sunk two-of-two and put the Demon Deacons up by two once again with under four to go in the second quarter. A falling Williams grabbed another two for Syracuse, but Wake Forest wasn’t done yet as they responded to those two points with another two of their own.

The back-and-forth continued as Strautmane sunk a jumper down in the Syracuse zone and the Orange returned to their zone shortly after following a foul called on the Demon Deacons. Strautmane was then nice and open out in front and glided a shot right in for another two.

Having struggled to cover Wake Forest under the basket all game long, Ivana Raca bested the Orange defense and popped one in after a Strautmane block right underneath the net. But Strautmane wasn’t done showing her skills yet as she sent one flying from beyond the arc and elevated Syracuse to a two-point lead.

Syracuse was unable to keep that lead for long as a race down to the other end gave Wake Forest two more points.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Wake Forest at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Kiara Lewis (23) goes to the basket past Wake Forest Demon Deacons guard Alexandria Scruggs (32) in the first quarter at the Carrier Dome.

A strong Strautmane under the basket led to a jump ball after several missed Syracuse shots but the possession arrow was in favor of the Demon Deacons and the momentum once again moved toward their end of the court.

A strong last-second block from the towering Cardoso stopped Wake Forest from breaking the 35-35 tie, but a missed layup by Lewis let the Demon Deacons run down the shot and clock, and they sunk another two with five to go in the second quarter. But a last-ditch effort by Mangakahia heading into halftime ended in a three for Syracuse and a one-point advantage as they headed into the locker room.

Syracuse started off the third quarter with possession of the ball, and Williams wanted to show her worth with a three-point basket less than a minute into the quarter. Mangakahia grabbed the second rebound in the Demon Deacon end and brought it all the way down to make two of her own and put the Orange up by six.

Still unable to keep Wake Forest from scoring in their sweet spot under the basket, Cardoso let another two slip by, and the scoreboard read 43-39 with the Orange still in the lead.

After some more back and forth, Strautmane brought the ball back down but her spin-around shot didn’t go, and they were back down to the other end. Wake Forest capitalized on another two-point shot and just like that, they were back within two.

Lewis helped out the Orange with a quick two, but tempers rose on the Orange bench as another foul was called on Syracuse, and the ball stayed in the Wake Forest end. Mangakahia plowed through defenders to extend the Orange lead to 47-41, but when Strautmane picked up her first personal foul, Wake Forest was unable to capitalize.

Entering their zone too quickly, Syracuse put up a throwaway shot and didn’t add to their lead, but the ball was soon back in their end and Cardoso grabbed another two for ‘Cuse. An unsuccessful press left Morra wide open and she was able to add two more for Wake Forest. Mangakahia sunk two more on the other end but Syracuse couldn’t keep the ball out of the Demon Deacons’ bucket as they scored two more as well

Seeing double, Strautmane popped a three in but it didn’t provide much relief as Raca answered with three of her own and the score was now 54-49.

A quick-paced third quarter saw two more from both Lewis and Engstler but Wake Forest picked up another two. Mangakahia brought the score to a 60-51 Syracuse lead with under a minute to go in the third. The only thing slowing either team down was foul calls sending them to the line.

With fifteen seconds to go in the third quarter, Lewis had more left in her. She popped in another two to give the Orange a 10-point lead. Conti gave the Demon Deacons two more at the line to end the third quarter at 62-54. Syracuse started out the final frame with two from no. 22, Amaya Finklea-Guity, and their lead was back to 10 just under a minute into the fourth quarter. Engstler’s rebound was thrown away in the Syracuse end and Finklea-Guity sent Conti to the line for two.

With Wake Forest slowly chipping away at the Syracuse lead, Lewis felt the need to change that and put up three off of an and-one. Raca answered with two to bring the Demon Deacons within eight, but Lewis’ battle under the Orange basket sent her to the line once again to try and strengthen the Syracuse lead but to no avail. Getting her own rebound, Lewis passed the ball into Cardoso who popped in two and the 10-point Syracuse lead was restored.

Back-to-back fouls for Syracuse sent Conti to the line once again and she cut the deficit to nine.

A game of hot potato in the Orange zone gave Wake Forest the ball back with 4:59 left to play but Lewis grabbed the defensive rebound and Engstler fought for two more under the basket, lifting Syracuse to a 71-60 lead over the Demon Deacons.

Cardoso made two from the line and with 3:10 to go in the contest, she popped in two more to give Syracuse a 15-point lead. Morra answered down at the other end with two to cut the lead a little but Mangakahia grabbed those two right back from the line. Conti made herself at home at the free throw line, sinking two more for Wake Forest. Engstler’s three-point attempt was too strong and Morra turned that into a made jumper at the other end.

A turnover by Mangakahia in the ‘Cuse zone led to another Conti two-point layup with under two minutes to go in the fourth quarter but Cardoso helped Syracuse regain some of their scoreboard strength with a quick layup. Wake Forest was quick to respond with two of their own and the score was now 79-71, Syracuse with 1:04 to go in the last stanza.

The Demon Deacons came out with powerful defense, sending Mangakahia to the floor and the line with 45 seconds remaining. Nine seconds later, Lewis was at the line, but her shots didn’t go, so the score stayed at 80-73. Their only option, Wake Forest sent Djaldi-Tabdi to the line for two, but she was unable to add anything to the box score either.

Conti put up another two for the Demon Deacons, but with 18 seconds remaining on the clock, Djaldi-Tabdi redeemed herself at the line and put up two more for the Orange. At the other end, Morra was fouled on the made two-point bucket and brought Wake Forest within four with 12 seconds to go.

Mangakahia was fouled and picked up one. Strong offense from Wake Forest ended up sending Lewis to the line and it was all Syracuse from there. With 1.7 seconds left, Lewis added two more to the scoreboard for the Orange, Wake Forest was unable to overcome their deficit and Syracuse topped the Demon Deacons 85-78.

“Our kids, they just fought,” said Hillsman. “They took care of business.”

Syracuse will try to keep their win streak alive when they visit Pittsburgh for a 2 p.m. matinee tip off on Sunday, Feb. 7.

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is a magazine, news and online graduate student and sports lead producer for The NewsHouse.