Women’s basketball battles back to beat Penn State 82-72

SU women's basketball beats PSU 82-72

The Orange remain undefeated but Sunday's game revealed issues with ball control and accuracy heading into ACC competition.
Published: December 6, 2020
NCAA Womens Basketball: Penn St. at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange forward Digna Strautmane (45) shoots a free throw in the second quarter against the Penn State Nittany Lions at the Carrier Dome.

Both Syracuse and Penn State came into Sunday’s game undefeated, with the Nittany Lions boasting one more win than the Orange. However, Syracuse is the first and only ranked team on PSU’s schedule this season, sitting at No. 22 in the AP’s women’s basketball rankings.

The Orange took the court in the Dome for the first time this season in the Sunday afternoon matchup with the Nittany Lions. Syracuse was originally slated to take on Lincoln (Pa.) for their home opener on Wednesday, but the game was moved to the Carmelo K. Anthony Basketball Center after it was noticed that water was on the floor.

Syracuse easily won the tipoff, but after two missed three-pointer attempts from Kiara Lewis and Tiana Mangakahia, it was Penn State who put the first points on the board. After a Mangakahia turnover, the Nittany Lions scored again. It would take over three minutes and six shots, but Amaya Finklea-Guity scored the first two points for the Orange.

Penn State responded by sinking the first three of the game, before Lewis netted a jumper to cut the score to 9-4. Finklea-Guity scored two more and Lewis went to the line to shoot two, missing one.

Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi sunk the first three of the game for Syracuse with 3:21 remaining in the first quarter, but Penn State answered with three of their own and then another on their next two possessions. After a Syracuse layup, Lewis took matters into her own hands, stealing the ball from Penn State and going back down court to get the Orange two additional points.

The Nittany Lions went into the second quarter up 22-14, sinking four three-pointers compared to Syracuse’s one out of 10 attempts.

Syracuse basketball
Syracuse Orange guard Tiana Mangakahia (4) during the first half in the game between Syracuse and Penn State at the Carrier Dome Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 in Syracuse New York.

Penn State opened the second quarter the same way they started the game: with two points. Both teams missed several attempts before Priscilla Williams scored two points for Syracuse with 7:31 on the clock. Fouled taking a shot from the arc, Williams had another opportunity to close the point gap, but she missed all three free throws.

Djaldi-Tabdi sunk both of her free throws at 4:15, marking another long streak without any points from the Orange. With 2:43 remaining in the first half, Mangakahia scored her first two points of the afternoon on free throws after being effectively shut down in the field by the Nittany Lions.

Lewis followed up two more field goals with a steal and a layup to move Syracuse within six points, the closest margin since early in the game. Penn State took a timeout but didn’t disrupt SU’s momentum, with Digna Strautmane sinking a three. Mangakahia stole the ball from PSU again and took it down for a layup, and Lewis followed up seconds later with one of her own but missed the bonus foul shot.

Lewis’ shot gave Syracuse their first since early in the first quarter and the Orange held Penn State scoreless for nearly four-and-a-half minutes while going on a 15-point scoring streak. Mangakahia dribbled out the final seconds of the quarter to go into half with a narrow 33-32 lead.

In a serious case of déjà vu, Penn State scored the first points of the third quarter, but this time Syracuse got two back to regain the lead. The back and forth continued before the Nittany Lions scored five unanswered. Mangakahia got one back for Syracuse, but Penn State answered right away.

Strautmane scored her second three-pointer of the afternoon to push Syracuse back on top, but a foul shot tied the game. Two free throws by Finklea-Guity gave the Orange a two-point lead, their largest advantage yet. They widened the gap even further, 53-47, before PSU called timeout.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Penn St. at Syracuse
Syracuse Orange guard Kiara Lewis (23) drives the ball past Penn State Nittany Lions guard Tova Sabel (10) in the first quarter at the Carrier Dome.

Off a pass from Mangakahia, Strautmane netted one last layup before the end of the quarter to give Syracuse a 61-53 lead going into the final 10 minutes.

Lewis scored her first three of the game at 9:23 and sunk another close to two minutes later. Syracuse pushed ahead, holding a 69-61 lead, but Penn State kept up the pressure.

Staying with the Orange late into the game, Penn State couldn’t come back for the win. Syracuse managed their first win in the Dome this season with an 82-72 victory over the Nittany Lions and improved to 3-0.

Syracuse finished shooting 38 percent from the field and only making five of 29 three-pointers. Lewis led the Orange with 26 points and five steals. Mangakahia and Strautmane each had 14 points, with Mangakahia adding 8 assists and Strautmane leading the team with four blocks.

Finklea-Guity netted 10 points and led Syracuse with nine rebounds. Emily Engstler, in her return with the Orange, pulled down eight rebounds in 19 minutes.

Despite the tough-fought win, head coach Quentin Hillsman feels prepared going into conference play.

“Being down that much in the first half was not ideal for us, obviously,” said Hillsman. “Our kids really fought and came back and won the game. Kiki was amazing; she made some shots that really got us going. We were able to attack the rim…and we made them play. At the end of the day, a win’s a win. We’ve got some work to do.”

The Orange travels to Florida this week to take on Miami, their first ACC matchup, on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 8:00 p.m. The Hurricanes are 3-0 going into Thursday’s game.

Avatar for Alyssa Hertel

is the Sports Lead Producer for The NewsHouse.