Women win final home game over Providence, 63-47

Iasia Hemingway and Kayla Alexander lead Orange past Friars as team finishes season with 17-2 home record.

In the last four seasons, the Syracuse women’s basketball team has posted three 20-win seasons and four consecutive winning seasons. During this time, the women’s team has transformed from an often dreadful team to a consistent postseason contender.

The turning point for the Syracuse program revolves around the recruitment of three players: Erica Morrow, Chanieka Williams and Tasha Harris. While Williams was plagued with injuries during much of her tenure at Syracuse, Morrow and Harris are among the best players in Orange history.

Photo: Theodore P. Rysz III
Kayla Alexander gets fouled going up for a shot in the first half of the game.

The three seniors were recognized in Syracuse’s final game in the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon. Though the post-position players Iasia Hemingway and Kayla Alexander stole the offensive show in the Orange’s 63-47 defeat of Providence, head coach Quentin Hillsman attributed the current success of the program to the senior class.

“I owe everything to them,” Hillsman said. “If they don’t come here, we don’t win. It is because of them I am standing here. It is because of them that I am still at Syracuse.”

The game was a memorable one for the seniors who have called the Carrier Dome their home and seeing the rewards of the successful program they helped build over the past four years.

“It is the reason why I wanted to come to Syracuse. I wanted to be a part of something special,” Morrow said. “We have a special group of girls here, a special staff and special administration.

“We just wanted to put the program on the map. In my last game, I’m certainly happy what I’ve learned, the person I’ve become and the people I’ve met here.”

Syracuse picked up their fifth consecutive conference win Saturday by relying on the play of Hemingway and Alexander inside the paint both offensively and defensively. The two totaled for 32 of the Orange’s 63 points. Thirty of Syracuse’s points came in the paint.

“We keep wanting to give them opportunities,” Hillsman said. “If we get their hands on the ball, it gives us a chance to win. I give credit to our guards to unselfishly make sure they get the ball to the high and low post so they can score. 

The interior players have carried Syracuse through their win streak during games where the perimeter players were not shooting well. In the past five games, Alexander has 96 points and 36 rebounds, while Hemingway has 61 points and 40 rebounds.

The chemistry between the two players, constantly looking for each other on the floor, is something that has grown over the season.

“We were actually talking about it before the game, saying how this our first year playing together and our chemistry became so good,” Hemingway said. “I think it is more of trusting each other and knowing when to get her the ball and how to get her the ball.”

Syracuse held the Friars to shooting just 25.4 percent field goals in the game and only 26.7 percent in 3-point attempts.

“We can’t shoot like that in an away building and expect to win,” Providence head coach Phil Seymore said.

“We knew if we could guard the 3-point shot, we could win the game,” Hillsman said. “We did a good job of staying at home with the shooters.”

With the win over the Friars, Syracuse improved to 21-7, 17-2 at home, and guaranteed itself a winning record in the Big East. Their record also puts them on the cusp of gaining a bid into the NCAA Tournament.

“I think we put ourselves in a position where we are very close to that position of getting ourselves in,” Hillsman said. “I truly believe that we don’t have any bad losses on our schedule and some really good wins.

“A lot of times it depends on how you finish, and we have finished very well.”

Syracuse plays their final game of the season Monday night at No.1 ranked Connecticut. It will be a difficult game for the Orange in a hostile environment, but one that will improve their RPI for tournament considerations.

“Just to have the opportunity to play the No. 1 team it the country, that’s pretty good,” Hillsman said. “We are very excited for the opportunity to play against a great team. It’s a great atmosphere for women’s basketball. It’s loud and they get into the game.”

“It’s going to be a packed house for their senior night,” Morrow said. “It’s going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it. As a basketball player, you want to play tough games against top teams.”   

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