Mountaineers no match for Morrow

Morrow makes up for an injured Michael on offense for a big win against No. 8 West Virginia in their final regular-season game

Syracuse ended their regular season on a high note Monday night, beating West Virginia 67-48. The team honored its seniors, Nicole Michael, Juanita Ward, Vionca Murray and Lynnise Nixon for Senior Day before the four women played their last home game in the Dome.

The Orange started off very slow. Struggling on offense, they were down 18-4 with 13:20 on the clock. The Mountaineers held over a 10-point lead for most of the first half, led by guard, Liz Repella.  Repella scored 13 points in the half, including two 3-pointers. Ali Madina was a key player on defense, with six defensive rebounds (eight total) before halftime.

Photo: Mitchell Franz
Syracuse freshman Kayla Alexander (40) puts the ball up amidst pressure from West Virginia defenders. Alexander had five rebounds, eight points and five steals.

With 7:53 remaining in the half, Syracuse was dominating on the boards, but not in their favor. They were shooting 4-30 (13.3 percent), against West Virginia’s 8-13 (61.5 percent).

After a series of unfortunate turnovers, Erica Morrow helped pick up the momentum in the last few minutes of the half. She made her third steal of the game, before scoring a deuce for the Cuse and then a triple just a minute later. The Orange ladies then proceeded into a 7-0 run, topped off by Morrow with another 3-pointer before going into halftime. West Virginia was still up, 30-34, but not by much.

Cuse kept up the energy going into the second half. With 18:21 to go, they took the lead for the first time in the game, at 36-35, and never looked back. From there on out, the Orange was on fire.

Still ahead 40-39 with 14:12 still left in the half, Syracuse went on a 22-3 run for the next 10 minutes. Reaching a 20-point lead, their highest in the game, the score was 62-42 and there was less than five minutes left in the game.

Most of this work was done without their lead player, Nicole Michael, who injured her right foot about eight minutes into the half and sat out for the remainder of the game. Michael currently holds a record for 1,725 total career points.

Morrow stayed strong for her team, scoring a game-high 23 points, with help from Juanita Ward and Carmen Tyson-Thomas in the final minutes. The Orange came out on top, ending the game 67-49.

Syracuse Coach Quentin Hillsman was extremely proud of the huge win tonight. “We’ve given ourselves a chance to go to the tournament,” he said after the game. The team is now eligible to play in the post season, and, according to Hillsman, “that’s the goal.” He admitted that they started off with extremely poor shooting, but was proud that the players did what they had to do – change their game at the rim – in order to win the game.

Coach Hillsman commented on Morrow’s critical efforts in the game, noting, “She was the reason tonight we won the basketball game. She was just very aggressive,” and that’s what they needed. Morrow felt the team really came together in the second half. She said that when your defense is finally working, as theirs was halfway through the game, “it gives you a little more bounce in your step,” and “gets [the team] going offensively and defensively.”

On the loss of their star player, Morrow said, “Nicole’s our leader…It wasn’t the same without her on the court.”

“But,” she added, “we definitely have the type of players that can all step it up.” And they all certainly did.


Forward Juanita Ward (15) shoots a jumper inside the paint. Ward had nine boards and 10 points. (PHOTO: Mitchell Franz)

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