Sykes soars as Orange beat Cavaliers

Syracuse used a big run late in the first half that propelled it to an even bigger and turnover-free second half.

Syracuse women’s basketball team started its contest against the University of Virginia looking frustrated and flustered. After coming into the game ranked 17th in the nation in turnover differential, the team lost possession 16 times while only forcing seven turnovers.

But, with the score 33-29 and around three minutes to go, Syracuse went on an 11-2 run to end the half, taking the lead and battling through for a 84-75 victory. The win brought Syracuse to 15-5 on the season, and 4-3 in the ACC.

After starting the first half so poorly, Syracuse limited its turnovers in the second, going nine minutes before its next turnover and finishing the game with 20.

Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman referred to the game as a “tale of two halves” due to difference in ball control that his team exhibited through the game.

“In the second half, we just took care of the ball and got shots,” Hillsman said. “But today was about Brittney Sykes just willing us to win.”

Sykes scored 18 of her career-high 27 points in the second half, including two layups in a 15-second span to put Syracuse ahead, 65-61, with about eight minutes left to play.

“I am just so happy for her [Skyes] because I blame her for every loss, and I take the credit for every win,” Hillman said. “But she is a tough kid, and she takes and continues to play hard.”

Virginia started the game aggressively. Leading the attack was Kelsey Wolfe, who scored 12 points within the first ten minutes and constantly penetrated SU’s zone. Wolfe was a non-factor in the second half, though, scoring only nine—most of which came after Syracuse had secured the win.

Brianna Butler had a double-double for the Orange, scoring 16 points and dishing 12 assists. It was her ninth-straight game of scoring 14 points or more. The assists total, on the other hand, was a season high.

Butler and Sykes both agreed that playing off of each other so well was the difference in the game.

“I think it is great, because I am a shooter and Brittney [Sykes] is a driver,” Butler said. “They either have to step out on me [when I have the ball], or be ready to guard Brittney on the drive.”

SU’s Rachel Coffey had three three-pointers in the first half for Syracuse, including a shot just past half court to end the first half and give Syracuse a 37-33 lead. Coffey said the reason she did so well was simple: she just kept making shots.

“The first shot I made in the game just got me going,” Coffey said. “So I had in my head to just keep shooting.”

But her buzzer beater? That one wasn’t as simple.

“It was a lot of luck; I am not going to lie,” Coffey said. “I didn’t expect it to go in. I was just shooting it.”

Virginia’s Sarah Imovbioh dominated Syracuse’s low post. Imovbioh had 20 points and 11 rebounds (nine of which were offensive) on 9-of-13 shooting.

Hillsman couldn’t believe how talented she was, and how she attacked with reckless abandonment.

“She was a monster inside, just strong and physical down low,” Hillsman said. “She anchors them down, and she holds your forward down there.

“I give her a lot of credit for making this game tough for us, because it was mostly her.

The Orange’s next game will be on Thursday, when the team travels to take on the University of North Carolina at home.

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