Syracuse’s full-court press stifles Albany in 75-53 win

first_imgEvery time Syracuse scored, its five players on the court reacted exactly the same.They didn’t celebrate, they hardly even high-fived. Only two of them, the forwards, retreated past half-court. The three guards immediately found their marks and dispersed — two on Albany’s starting point guard Kyara Frames and one on the off-ball guard. SU’s full-court press was so stifling that the Great Danes had trouble inbounding the ball to Frames for much of the game.“We’re a pressing team,” SU guard Gabrielle Cooper said. “We press 40 minutes, so normally we don’t celebrate after made shots.”That full-court press — a staple of head coach Quentin Hillsman’s coaching style — halted any flow Albany (1-3) tried to gain on offense as No. 20 Syracuse (3-0) won its third-straight, 75-53, to open the season on Saturday afternoon in the Carrier Dome. The Orange forced 18 turnovers, their highest tally of the season, and had five steals. Hillsman said the team knew it “couldn’t lose” Frames because of her quickness and shot-making ability. After a first quarter in which Frames sunk two threes and had two assists, Hillsman told SU to guard her tighter. Frames took two shots for the rest of the game.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We knew we could get matched up and stay in front of them and not let them just push the ball down our throats in transition,” Hillsman said. “I thought that we did an excellent job of containing her.”Along with its suboptimal defense in the first quarter, Syracuse struggled to score. In all three of SU’s games, it has been its lowest-scoring quarter of the game. Syracuse started 3-for-5 after a three from Digna Strautmane and two layups, and it looked like its early scoring woes were gone. But its next four possessions ended in three turnovers and a missed jumper, and the Orange finally reached double-digit points with 3:34 remaining in the first quarter. Syracuse strayed away from its identity on Tuesday against Maryland Eastern Shore by attempting 37 threes, its third-most attempts since the start of the 2018-19 season. With Albany running a man-to-man, the Orange didn’t have nearly the same number of open shots as on Tuesday. Instead, SU opted for shots closer to the hoop by feeding Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi, who went 2-for-2 in the first half, or a guard driving into the paint. Kiara Lewis — who attempted just four shots in Tuesday’s game — was more aggressive and finished the first half leading all scorers with 12 points.Lewis scored in a variety of ways. Twice, she darted past her man at the top of the key and maneuvered into the paint for an easy layup. In the final three minutes of the second quarter, Lewis drilled two threes to expand SU’s lead to double-digits. Instances in which she passed up a chance to drive or shoot on Tuesday, she was taking on Saturday.“This game I just took what was open, but I was still trying to find my teammates,” Lewis said. “I don’t pre-determine how I am going to play, I just let the game come to me.”The teams were knotted at 16 after one quarter when SU began stifling Albany with its zone and full-court press after made shots. Often times, SU wouldn’t even let Frames get the ball from the inbound pass. Hillsman rotated guards in and out of the game to maintain high energy on defense. A combination of Lewis, Elemy Colome, Cooper and Taleah Washington double-teamed Frames, forcing Albany to inbound to shooting guard Morgan Haney.Syracuse allowed eight points in the second quarter, the fewest it has allowed in a quarter this season.“We held them to eight points, we want to make that five or three points next time,” Cooper said.In the second half, the Orange’s offense found its rhythm and gradually added to its lead. After her explosive first half, Lewis registered just five points in the second. Rather, she fed players like Engstler and Cooper, who both finished with double-digit outings, including a second straight double-double for Engstler. SU posted its highest-scoring half of the season in the second half, posting 41 points.Hillsman said the point of Syracuse’s defensive style is to set the tempo on the offensive end.“We’re not turning teams over like we have in the past, but we’re definitely creating tempo up and down the floor,” Hillsman said. “That’s our goal right now is to try to speed the game up so we can get enough possessions so we can be effective on the offensive end.”With 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter and SU with a 15-point advantage, the Orange remained relentless, and put together one of its best defensive possessions of the game.Cooper swished a three and immediately ran to double-team Frames along with Colome, while Washington took Haney. Frames didn’t even try to get open and instead ran down the court. Cooper, Colome and Washington trapped two Great Danes players in the backcourt for six seconds, but two quick touch passes looked to unlock the SU defense and give Frames an open three.Djaldi-Tabdi, the last SU player back, sprinted out to Frames from where she was standing near the basket and did enough to force an airball. Under the basket was Cooper, who fought with Albany’s Helene Haegerstrand for the ball. A brief tussle ended with the ball hitting off Haegerstrand’s foot and out of bounds. With the shot clock off, the Orange would now have the final possession of the quarter.This time, Cooper let out a passionate scream and fist pump. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on November 16, 2019 at 3:09 pm Contact David: [email protected]last_img