SU women keep on rolling at home with win over South Florida

South Florida had no answer for the Orange attack Saturday as Syracuse jumped out early and rolled to a 78-57 victory.

On the first play of the Syracuse women’s basketball game Saturday, guard Tasha Harris passed the ball to Iasia Hemingway waiting in the low post. Hemingway spun and shot the ball into the basket. It was a play that Syracuse repeated often with great effect.

Syracuse took an early lead that it never relinquished en route to beating South Florida, 78-57. Five players finished the game with double digits in scoring for the Orange, thanks to the movement between the high and low post.

Photo: Theodore P. Rysz III
Elashier Hall drives to the baseline as Syracuse adds another Big East conference win to their record.

Syracuse’s offense relied on strong play on the post throughout the first half of the game. Kayla Alexander and Hemingway both had dominant games down low, and each had 10 points entering halftime. 

“We made a very conscious effort to throw the ball inside to them,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “That’s how you get good interior play, making the commitment to throwing the ball down there.”

Much of the interior effectiveness was the mismatch in size between Alexander’s 6-foot, 4-inch frame and the smaller South Florida players attempting to guard her. Alexander finished the afternoon with a team-high 17 points. 

“They just have better interior players than we do,” Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez said. “We were forced to go man on certain situations, Alexander is a big target.”

While Alexander and Hemingway stole the show down low, Syracuse’s offensive dominance centered around the guards. Players such as Elashier Hall and Erica Morrow – who usually rack up the points for the Orange – passed the ball inside rather than shooting it themselves.

“It’s a big testament to them as players and understand being team players and playing to our strengths,” Hillsman said.

“I don’t think that guards appreciate how hard bigs work sometimes because we don’t know how it is,” senior Erica Morrow said. “Kayla has definitely been working hard to finish around the basket.”

As Syracuse’s lead increased – growing to as many as 24 points in the second half – South Florida switched from zone to man-to-man defense. The result caused the Bulls to collapse into the middle, leaving an open Orange player beyond the arc.

Exhibiting one of the best offensive games so far this season, Syracuse shot well from the 3-point line as well. Carmen Tyson-Thomas went 2-of-3 and Morrow was 3-of-8 for the afternoon.

“I thought that we did a very good job of throwing the ball inside and collapsing the ball out to the perimeter,” Hillsman said. “The ones that you make beyond the arc are the ones where we are wide open, and we made some wide-open ones.”

Syracuse’s biggest challenge defensively was to guard against South Florida’s Andrea Smith. Smith is the team’s only double-digit scorer. Her 16.8 points per game is third best in the Big East.

Smith scored 23 points against the Orange, but was the only player on the team to score in double-digits.  

The Orange have now won three games in a row, all against Big East opponents. Up next, they face a tough stretch of games that includes No. 9 Notre Dame and Rutgers on the road, two arenas with traditionally hostile environments. 

“This (win) does help our confidence going into (the road trip).” Tyson-Thomas said. “Us shooting well outside and inside is helping us a bit. This kind of a win does help us, and it does get us through.”

The Orange are now14-1 at home but just 1-2 on the road, and after Saturday’s win, Syracuse can finish no worse than .500 for the season.

“We’re bowl eligible now, we have 16 wins,” Hillsman joked after the game. “We’re doing all we can to get into the NCAA tournament.”

Game notes: 36 of Syracuse’s 78 points came from the paint. Syracuse had five players with double-digits: Alexander (17), Morrow (13), Hall (13), Hemingway (12) and Shakeya Leary (10). Hemingway finished one rebound shy of a double-double. Freshman La’Shay Taft entered the game with 3:28 remaining and had five points, her first in Big East play. Saturday was Girls and Women in Sports day, and every SU women’s varsity and club teams were recognized during halftime.  


Daughters throughout the Dome watched the game with their fathers during SU's win over USF celebrating Father-Daughter Day. Photo: Theodore P. Rysz III

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