Syracuse women’s basketball secures first win in season opener
SU women's basketball defeats North Dakota
The Syracuse Women’s Basketball team blew out the North Dakota Fighting Hawks 85-49 in its season opener on Tuesday afternoon at the Carrier Dome.
The Orange’s 2017-18 starting lineup will return this season: juniors Tiana Mangakahia and Gabrielle Cooper, sophomores Amaya Finklea-Guity and Digna Strautmane and senior Miranda Drummond.
‘Cuse started slowly, trailing the Fighting Hawks 6-0. By the end of the first quarter, they were able to tie North Dakota with 18 points.
North Dakota packed on a lot of pressure from the start, full-court pressing the Orange after sinking buckets. Mangakahia made the first basket for ‘Cuse and ended the first quarter with seven points, using a variety of pull-up jumpers and threes.
North Dakota played an extended 2-3 zone, forcing ‘Cuse out of the middle of the paint and making the Orange launch threes.
With less than two minutes to go in the second quarter, redshirt sophomore Kiara Lewis hit back-to-back shots behind the arc. Only a few seconds later, Drummond knocked down another three, putting Syracuse up 41 to 30 before the half.
North Dakota started the second half with possession of the ball, and Syracuse set up in its full 2-2-1 press. This forced the Fighting Hawks into a back-court corner trap and resulted in a steal for the Orange that led into the transition, off-the-glass finish. That play immediately gave the crowd and the Orange momentum.
Mangakahia is fearless getting into the paint, forcing defenders to guard her, which ultimately opened up post-play looks down low for easy layups.
“When [Coach Quentin Hillsman] lets me play free, I Iove it,” said Mangakahia in a post-game press conference. “I love to attack the basket and find open players. That’s what I love to do, and I appreciate him letting me play free and letting me play my game.”
Three minutes into the third quarter, the Orange took off, leading the Fighting Hawks 50-36.
‘Cuse had its largest lead in the third quarter, outscoring North Dakota 29 to 6. Freshman Emily Engstler, Lewis, and Drummond all contributed to the Orange’s large scoring margin.
Defensively, ‘Cuse was aggressive in the press, creating back-to-back turnovers that allowed Raven Fox to lay one up for an and-one.
Syracuse closed out the third quarter 65-38 by defensive efforts, opening up an opportunity for transition baskets.
Both Engstler and Lewis finished the night with 13 points. Engstler, High school All-American and New York’s Gatorade Player of the Year, was 3 for 4 behind the arc, and 5 for 9 from the field, while tallying a steal, two blocks, an assist and three rebounds in 15 minutes of play.
“I do always feel a little pressure,” said Engstler. “But I personally never really feel nervous before a game. I think I’ve had so much time with this team before our first game that we built these relationships that just makes it so much easier to go out there and play on the court.”
Four Syracuse players finished in double-figures: Lewis and Engstler each came away with 13 points, and Drummond and Mangakahia each had 11 points.
The Orange will move on to play No. 3 Oregon at 5 p.m. on Saturday.