SU women blow out Nova to get back on winning track

Kayla Alexander's game-high 22 points and nine rebounds power Syracuse past Villanova, 70-49, to avenge Tuesday's loss.

In Tuesday’s loss versus DePaul, Kayla Alexander scored just four points off two field goals. It was a large departure from the 14.2 points she averaged through her first 22 games.

Saturday afternoon, however, Alexander returned to her explosive offensive form. She scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds, leading the Syracuse women’s basketball team to a 70-49 victory over Villanova at the Carrier Dome.

Photo: Brandon Weight

The Orange dominated play on both ends of the court through all 40 minutes of play. Syracuse scored 42 of their points from inside the arc. The Syracuse guards continued to feed Alexander, Iasia Hemingway and Shakeya Leary below the basket.

“If you continue to attack and continue to throw the ball at the post and down low, we have a chance to win the basketball,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said.

Along with scoring baskets in the paint, Syracuse’s aggressive play down low also drew a plethora of fouls. The Orange converted on 22 of 30 free throw attempts, and Alexander personally shot 10-for-13 from the line.

“Personally, for me I wanted to get this win for the team,” she said. “I just tried to play basketball, do what my coaches told me to do and get it done.”

While Syracuse’s offensive plan was to get the ball into the interior, Villanova drew up a completely different strategy for their offensive end. The Wildcats attempted to rely on their 3-point shots, keeping the play on the perimeter and moving the ball with long passes along the arc.

It was a game plan Hillsman and his players prepared for after watching hours of game tape, especially after DePaul successfully beat them Tuesday night with the same perimeter play.  

“That’s the beauty of tape,” Hillsman said. “We figured out what we need to do to get out on shooters when we play a team that have guards on the perimeter.

“We just tried to stick solid to our guns and hoped that he would stick to playing what we saw on tape.”

The Orange intercepted many of Villanova’s passes and caused the Wildcats to turn the ball over 21 times. The disruption in their offensive zone held the team’s top scorer, Laura Sweeney, to just six points.

“We went over their offense, and we knew that they kept doing the skip-pass,” forward Carmen Tyson-Thomas said. “We know how to defend [the three], and we came out and defended it today.”

Syracuse’s advantage in size and experience prevented Villanova from attempting any interior shots. Alexander, a 6-4 center, and Leary, a 6-3 forward, were equally effective under the basket in both the offensive and defensive ends.  

“It’s difficult for us to go inside,” Villanova head coach Harry Perretta said. “We got the ball to our big kids behind the defense, but the problem is that they see [Syracuse’s] defenders and panic, and then kick the ball out right away because they are kind of scared.”

Villanova’s refusal to challenge Syracuse defenders led to zero free throw chances for the visiting team. Perretta said it was not the first time his team did not have any free throws – this season they went one full game and half of another – but it was the first time they lost while doing so.

Syracuse started the second half with a 44-29 lead. The advantage allowed the Orange to significantly slow the pace and put a stranglehold on the game. This was a tactic Hillsman said he learned from Perretta, who is currently at his 33rd season at Villanova.

“We slowed the game down,” Hillsman said. “We knew that unless we turned the ball over, we couldn’t lose the basketball game. There weren’t enough possessions in the game.”

Perhaps the only negative component to Syracuse’s game was an injury to starting guard Erica Morrow. Morrow injured her left wrist wrestling for a ball with 4:50 remaining in the first half. She stayed on the bench for the rest of the game icing the injury.

Hillsman said after the game she originally hurt the wrist Friday in practice and should be cleared to play in Syracuse’s next game Feb. 16 versus Louisville at the Dome.

With Morrow out of the game, Elashier “Lacy” Hall played all 40 minutes.

Hall’s reliability combined with another strong game by Leary shows that Syracuse has a sound bench as well as starting players.

“I’ve said from the beginning of the season that we have a long bench with a lot of depth. We might not show it every game, but it is there.”


Game Notes: Villanova’s leading scorer was Lindsay Kimmel, who scored all of her 21 points from 3-point range. ... Leary led the team with 10 rebounds. ... Hemingway was second on the team with 15 points. ... Syracuse’s home record improved to 15-2 at the Carrier Dome. ... Saturday afternoon was The Carol Baldwin Foundation and the Dimples Awareness Foundation day. Both teams sported pink warm ups, Villanova wore shiny pink shoes and Syracuse wore pink uniforms during the game. Pink ribbon T-shirts were also handed out. ... Along with the pink festivities, Saturday was also Girl Scout Day and High School Day, bringing in an attendance of 1,713.


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