SU women’s basketball punches ticket to NCAA tournament as No. 8 seed

SU punches ticket to NCAA tourney as No. 8 seed

The Orange will take on No. 9 South Dakota State in the first round in a rematch of 2019's Sweet Sixteen matchup.
Published: March 15, 2021
Kiara Lewis attempts a layup during the game against South Dakota State in the 2019 NCAA Tournament Sweet Sixteen round.

Syracuse women’s basketball received the No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 South Dakota State in the opening round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament. This marks eight straight bids for head coach, Quentin Hillsman and nine in his 15-year career with the Orange.

With the women’s selection, Syracuse is one of only 26 teams with both men’s and women’s programs in the NCAA tournaments, and only one of five in the ACC.

SU previously faced off against South Dakota State in the second round of the 2019 tournament. In that meeting, the Jackrabbits beat the Orange, 75-64, to advance to the Elite Eight and crush Syracuse’s hopes of a championship run.

Syracuse started the season off hot, sweeping their early non-conference opponents. Several setups – from injuries to COVID protocols – held the Orange back, but the team rallied to earn their spot in this year’s tournament.

The Orange finished the season with a 14-8 overall record and a 9-7 record against other ACC teams. Syracuse made it to the ACC tournament and beat Boston College in their first game, 67-61, to advance to the second round.

In their game against No. 4 Florida State, SU battled from behind to beat their ranked opponent 68-67 on a buzzer beater. The Orange gave their all in their third game in three days, but a 72-59 loss to No. 1 Louisville wasn’t enough to push Syracuse to the ACC championship game.

Six Syracuse players remain on the roster from the last time these two teams met, and all six put up points in the loss. Tiana Mangakahia netted a team-high 18 points. Heading into this year’s tournament, the Orange may be without Mangakahia, who sat out the previous few ACC tournament games due to injury. Hillsman was tight-lipped when it came to her progress in coming back.

Still, heading into this year’s tournament, Hillsman is optimistic about his team’s chances against the Jackrabbits.

“You know, we started this year and we’re taking COVID tests and then we’re in quarantine and we’re making all these sacrifices,” said Hillsman. “This was the payment at the end of all that sacrifice. This is a remarkable feat. This year, one of my proudest ones because to get here we had to…do so many thing that were out of ordinary.”

The Orange will face off against South Dakota State on Sunday, Mar. 21 at 5:30 p.m. If Syracuse wins, they will play UConn, highly contested as the best team in women’s basketball.