Syracuse women’s basketball on a roll

SU women's basketball on a roll

Tiana Mangakahia, Kiara Lewis and Digna Strautmane hit huge career milestones this past week.
Published: February 10, 2021
NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Kiara Lewis (23) shoots the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the first half at the Carrier Dome.

A trio of Syracuse women’s basketball standouts started 2021 by entering the team’s record books after Tiana Mangakahia broke the 700-assist mark on Sunday against Pittsburgh. In a span of eight days, Kiara Lewis and Digna Strautmane scored their 1,000th career points, and Mangakahia became the first player in program history and just the sixth woman in ACC history to reach 700 assists.

On Jan. 31, Lewis reached the first milestone with her 1,000th point in an 81-69 victory over Notre Dame in the Dome. The Orange enter February ranked fourth in the ACC at 11-4 but remain a perfect 7-0 at home.

Lewis, a redshirt senior guard, was named to the All-ACC First Team a season ago after leading SU in points, assists and steals. Statistically, the 2020-21 season has not been as kind to Lewis. Her shooting percentages have dropped inside and outside the arc, and her points, rebounds and assists have decreased from a season ago. The team however has improved its consistency of play and will look to build on its 16-15 record from last year.

In a close comeback victory against Notre Dame, Lewis’ 1,000th career point came on a corner three that tied the game at 67 apiece. The team has won four of its last five, and Lewis has contributed double-digit points in each winning effort.

In the following game, a 76-63 loss at Georgia Tech, Strautmane joined Lewis in the 1,000-career point club to provide a silver lining against the third-ranked team in the ACC. In similar fashion, she hit a corner three in the fourth quarter, but the team was unable to rally behind her performance to defeat the Yellow Jackets.

The senior forward from Latvia was a member of the Latvian U20 National Team that finished 11th at the 2018 FIBA U20 European Championships. In her four appearances in the tournament, Strautmane has finished in the top ten in scoring three times, including third place with 18.7 points per game in 2017.

For the 2020-21 season, Strautmane has also seen a drop-off in points from 9.4 to 7.5, but her rebounding has increased from a season ago. Her overall shooting percentage has increased despite a decrease in her three-point percentage.

Strautmane was held off the scoreboard in 20 minutes in the team’s most recent matchup against Pitt, but in the game before against Wake Forest, she posted a season-high 17 on 7 of 13 shooting.

Jan 31, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange forward Digna Strautmane (45) controls the ball between Notre Dame Fighting Irish center Mikayla Vaughn (left) and forward Madelyn Westbeld (34) during the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Digna Strautmane earned 1,000 career points in Syracuse's game against Georgia Tech on Feb. 2, 2021.

Not to be outdone, fifth-year guard Mangakahia, already a member of the 1,000 point club at SU, notched her 700th assist in the Feb. 7 victory over Pitt. The program’s all-time leader in assists became the sixth woman in ACC history to reach the mark.

Her 11 assists led the team against the Panthers, and she hit a late three with 29 seconds left to put SU up 70-67, but she struggled in pregame warmups to a point that head coach Quentin Hillsman considered not starting her. Mangakahia finished the game with five points, but she has averaged 10.6 points and 7.9 assists on the season.

Mangakahia missed the entirety of the 2019-2020 season after she was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer, so her return in 2020-21 has boosted the Orange. As a sophomore, Mangakahia was named a top-10 finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Point Guard Award and First Team All-ACC after leading the nation with 304 assists. She was named First Team All-ACC the following season as well and finished top five for the Lieberman Award and earned All-ACC Tournament Team honors. Mangakahia has also been named a top-10 finalist for the Lieberman Award this year.

Also announced recently was Mangakahia’s selection as one of 39 players on the midseason watchlist for the Wade Trophy, awarded annually to the best women’s college basketball player in NCAA Division I play.

The trio of stars for SU basketball all posted career milestones to start 2021, and the team will be back in action tomorrow as they travel to Florida State to take on the Seminoles. With six games remaining, the team can still surpass last season’s win total despite the shortened, all-conference schedule they’ve faced this season.