Syracuse women’s basketball knocked out of tournament by UConn

Syracuse women's basketball knocked out of tournament by UConn

Kiara Lewis played a full 40 minutes in Syracuse's 83-47 loss to the No. 1 Huskies.
Published: March 23, 2021
Jan 28, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Syracuse Orange guard Kiara Lewis (23) shoots the ball against the defense of Pittsburgh Panthers guard Dayshanette Harris (1) during the first half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
JaSyracuse Orange guard Kiara Lewis (23) shoots the ball against the defense of Pittsburgh Panthers guard Dayshanette Harris (1) during the first half at the Carrier Dome.

In the NCAA women’s basketball tournament, there are few, if any, teams that look forward to facing off against the University of Connecticut. The Huskies have been a consistent and dominate presence in the women’s college game for years, with a reputation for being unbeatable established long before many of today’s current players were born.

Unfortunately for Syracuse, it was UConn who stood between the Orange and the Sweet 16. After beating South Dakota St. in the opening round, SU was forced to face the No. 1 seeded Huskies in just their second game in San Antonio. There’s a storied history between the two teams, albeit it’s one-sided on the stat sheet.

The last time Syracuse bested UConn was on January 2, 1996. Even further, it was a different Huskies team that defeated the Orange in the 2016 championship game to prevent Syracuse from claiming a national title against a perennial powerhouse.

It didn’t go Syracuse’s way. UConn came out on top, beating the Orange 83-47 in their 27th consecutive second round victory.

Kamilla Cardoso opened scoring for the night with the first two points and continued to go on a tear to keep the Orange in the game. Both teams went shot-for-shot, pulling down rebounds on either side of the court and giving fans a contentious game early on.

While Cardoso was the constant for Syracuse, others needed to step up early in the game. She headed to the bench in the final minute of the first half after ten points and two fouls. The Orange’s zone was clearly different without her anchoring it, and Cardoso’s play was different when she returned to the court as she tried to stay penalty-free.

UConn successfully shut down some of Syracuse’s most dominant players. A silent force in the regular season, Emily Engstler had a career game in the opening round against SDSU. In Tuesday’s game, she missed her first six shots and didn’t score her first points of the game until later in the second quarter.

Sheer numbers were also working against the Orange. Multiple players were out due to injury or violation of team rules, and the quick turnaround from Sunday’s game started to show. Tiana Mangakahia and Kiara Lewis – debatably the toughest backcourt in the country at the beginning of the season – played every minute of the first half. Lewis, who has quietly led the team on and off the court, played all 40 minutes. Mangakahia was close behind, only taking a combined three minutes on the sidelines.

Cardoso and Engstler finished with a team-leading 12 points each, and they pulled down seven and eight rebounds, respectively. Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi led the team with two blocks as she filled in for Cardoso later in the evening.

As the Huskies pulled further ahead, the weight of the score was evident on the faces of the Orange players. The minutes ticked down as Syracuse’s championship hopes faded fast, and the Orange season came to an end with the final buzzer in Tuesday’s game.

The Orange finish the 2020-21 season with a 15-9 record, and will see some of their well-known players leave the program this spring.