Women's basketball: Peterson leads Orange to sloppy victory over North Carolina

The win is SU's first over a ranked opponent this season.

Syracuse made only 27.3 percent of its field goals. It committed 16 turnovers, with 10 in the first half alone. It trailed its opponent in rebounds, blocks and nearly ever relevant shooting category. 

None of that mattered. 

When the final buzzer sounded in the Carrier Dome, the Orange came out victorious. More importantly, it could finally claim a win over a ranked opponent following seven failures. 

The No. 25 Orange (16-7, 6-4 ACC) defeated the No. 13 North Carolina Tar Heels (18-5, 5-4 ACC), 61-56, despite a last-minute comeback that had the Heels within three with 17 seconds to go. 

“Tonight was a huge win for us,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “We knew coming into this game that this was going to be a major, major part of the rest of our season.” 

Sophomore guard Alexis Peterson led the Orange with 20 points and had a key steal in the final five seconds that led to a Tar Heel foul and two made free throws to put the game out of reach. 

Peterson was only one of two players to score in double digits in another poor shooting performance for the Orange. SU shot only 22.6 percent from beyond the arc. 

Junior guard Brianna Butler contributed the most to SU’s shooting struggles, only hitting a pair of 21 field-goal attempts and making none of her 14 three-point attempts. 

“I always have faith in (Butler) regardless if she’s not making shots,” junior guard Cornelia Fondren said. “I know she can get to the basket, she can make free throws. I know she can knock down shots. Tonight just wasn’t her night.” 

Despite the high number of turnovers that Syracuse committed in the first half, it still managed to lead UNC by 10 due to a final triple by senior guard Maggie Morrison

UNC managed to stage a number of comeback attempts, most notably an 8-0 run that put the Tar Heels ahead 50-49 late in the second half. Syracuse refused to stay down for long, with Peterson sparking SU’s own 8-0 run to put it up by seven with two minutes remaining. 

Knowing that her teammates believed in her and were “continuing to find (her)” were the biggest causes of her success, Peterson said. 

“I know Cornelia had a steal that was big at a crucial point in the game and she passed it ahead, and I was able to finish,” Peterson said. “So without that steal I wouldn’t have been able to hit some of those shots.” 

While the Orange lacked in shooting efficiency, with the exception of Peterson, it made up for it in other aspects of the game. Syracuse grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, leading to 16 second-chance points. 

The Orange was also aggressive on the defensive end, forcing 24 turnovers that provided costly for the Tar Heels at the end of the game. 

Despite UNC being the last ranked team on its schedule, Syracuse will have a number of tough conference matches ahead. 

The Orange next faces Georgia Tech on Sunday, and then will return to the Carrier Dome to face Miami next Thursday.

“I don’t think it’s a relief,” Fondren said. “I just feel like every game we have to play like it’s our last game.”


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