Turnaround in final 6 minutes leads SU women’s basketball to WNIT quarterfinals

first_imgIt only took around 37 minutes, but finally, Juanita Ward did what no one else on the Syracuse women’s basketball team could do Friday night.She stopped Virginia Commonwealth’s D’Andra Moss. Moss looked to have an easy layup. Out of nowhere, Ward came flying to meet her, sending Moss’ feeble attempt out of bounds with a fury. Fired up, Ward exchanged a salute with SU point guard Tasha Harris.Ward’s block was part of a six-minute stretch that changed everything for the Orange. After a seesaw battle overall in which SU struggled to stop Moss all game, those six minutes led Syracuse (25-10) to a 74-59 victory over the Rams (22-13) inside Manley Field House in the WNIT’s round of 16. The Orange will travel to Michigan (20-13) to take on the Wolverines Sunday at 2 p.m. in the quarterfinals.‘I have to give my kids a lot of credit,’ SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said after the game. ‘It’s been a long week practicing and trying to keep going. I’ve been challenging them and pushing them, and they just keep responding.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAnd it was that six-minute stretch at the end of the second half that saw SU respond to its latest second-half deficit. After two Moss free throws — two of her 31 points on the night — VCU held a 55-51 lead with 6:47 left in the game. Everything was going according to plan for the Rams. Moss couldn’t be stopped. VCU was forcing Syracuse into turnovers. And after a tight battle to that point, the Rams held what seemed like a comfortable four-point advantage.But then came the stretch in which SU completely morphed its game. Changing its defensive gameplan, the Orange shut down Moss. Exploiting its two biggest advantages in the game, SU got to the line and sunk free throws. Or when it didn’t, someone was at least there to grab the rebound.It all started with clamping down on Moss. Scoring at will, she was unstoppable through the first 33 minutes of the game. Moving frantically from side to side in VCU’s offense, she called for the ball with every pass in the Rams’ offense. And with good reason. She tore up the Orange’s zone defense early on, scoring 18 points in the first half on 8-of-12 shooting. ‘I just thought that we just didn’t do a good job of getting to Moss,’ Hillsman said. ‘She made a lot of shots, and she really just got going on us and we couldn’t seem to get her under control.’After those two free throws at the 6:47 mark, Hillsman decided enough was enough. Shading to Moss’ side, the Orange made sure it wasn’t going to let her dominate the rest of the way. Moss only added another single point thereafter. She finished 0-of-4 from the field in the game’s final six minutes.‘I think we all just came together and said we have to pick up the intensity and play harder defense,’ said senior forward Nicole Michael, who was matched up with Moss most of the night. ‘And once we did that, we executed well and we stopped her pretty much.’With SU focusing on Moss, VCU’s offense took a hit. No one was able to step up to fill the offensive void when Moss couldn’t hit shots. And it led to an offensive turnaround for the Orange as well, as part of a 19-point swing in the game’s final six minutes. First, SU turned around its free-throw shooting. At the eight-minute mark, the Orange entered the bonus. Syracuse shot 13-for-18 (72 percent) after obtaining the bonus, sinking key shots from the charity stripe in the game’s closing minutes. The VCU bench’s chants of ‘Rebound! Box out!’ were rendered useless.‘It was a nice change,’ freshman center Kayla Alexander said. ‘Usually our free-throw percentage is not great. So I thought we did a decent job today. It helped.’On those five misses from the line, someone was usually there to grab the leftovers. The Orange used its size and strength to muscle around the Rams in the paint, finishing with a 24-12 offensive rebound advantage. Hillsman knew it was key in that deciding stretch.‘Rebounding the basketball was huge for us,’ Hillsman said. ‘For us to be plus-21 on the boards was remarkable. To double them up on offensive rebounds, I thought that was the key to the game.’With that, the Orange completed one of its most dominant runs of the season — a 23-4 run that turned a close game into a blowout win. But facing perhaps the last six minutes of her collegiate career, Michael wasn’t flustered the least bit. It was almost as if she knew the season-saving stretch was coming.‘I didn’t panic at all,’ Michael said. ‘Because I know my teammates. We kept our heads up, and we just got it done. I didn’t panic at all.’bplogiur@syr.edu Comments Published on March 25, 2010 at 12:00 pmcenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more

Read More
Trojans welcome back Shaw as UCLA looms

first_imgThe Trojans continued to prepare for a highly anticipated matchup with crosstown rival UCLA at practice on Wednesday. USC is determined to get back on the field with a shot at the Pac-12 South crown in sight and end a two-game losing streak against the Bruins.Fearless leader · Head coach Steve Sarkisian allowed senior defensive back Josh Shaw to practice, but did not reveal if Shaw will play in Saturday’s game against UCLA. Sarkisian went 6-1 against the Bruins as an assistant. – Mariya Dondonyan | Daily TrojanWelcome BackRedshirt senior cornerback Josh Shaw was reinstated on Tuesday evening, and he was back on the practice field Wednesday morning. Shaw spent most of the practice observing his teammates and relearning the system. The Palmdale, California, native missed a total of 10 games, but looked in shape and presumably remained active during his time away from the team.Shaw might not see the field on Saturday, but head coach Steve Sarkisian was impressed with his movement and hopes that his knowledge and experience assists the team  in the days leading up to the game.“I thought he moved pretty fluidly. You could tell he’s been active,” Sarkisian said. “I think Josh [Shaw] brings us a veteran player with a lot of experience.”The players were happy to see Shaw back, and they welcomed his return to Howard Jones Field. Sarkisian wanted to move on from the incident and allow Shaw to focus on football. With only two games left in his senior season, Shaw was able to spend time with his teammates and get back into the swing of things.“What I’ve always tried to do, not just in this instance, but in all of them, is really assess the character of the individual and [whether or not] the action was out of character for him and I totally believe that with Josh,” Sarkisian said. ”I think he’s a very good person. He made a mistake, he acknowledged it, he’s been remorseful, he’s paid a severe penalty of 10 games and he’s fortunate and happy to be back.”Though the suspension lasted for the better part of three months, Shaw’s teammates claim that they forgave him long ago and were ecstatic to see him back at practice today.“I guess he’s been training while he hasn’t been out here because he looks exactly the same,” said junior defensive end Leonard Williams. “He’s the same guy. Josh Shaw is a great player and we’re glad to have him back.”Sophomore linebacker Su’a Cravens agreed.“Josh [Shaw] was a first round corner before the season started and he’s still a first round corner even 10 games later,” Cravens said. “We forgave him probably a week after we heard what happened, people make mistakes, not everybody’s perfect. Josh [Shaw] is human, that’s our brother and we’re always going to have his back.”Focused on the Task at HandShaw’s return could be viewed as a distraction leading up to the big game, but the team is keeping their sights on the game. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley presents a unique challenge with his ability to pass and run.“Our biggest key that we’ve been working on is just trying to keep him in the pocket, make him as much as a passing quarterback as possible because I noticed in the past two years that what he’s been able to beat us with is his rushing,” Williams said. “We just have to limit and contain him as much as possible and limit his rushing yards.”Cravens is determined to turn around USC’s recent misfortune against their rival, and he knows that mission starts with Hundley.“He can sit in the pocket and eat you alive and he can also beat you with his legs,” Cravens said. “He’s a great player; I feel like I’m confident in my abilities but we’ll see what happens Saturday.”See You On SaturdayThough the game marks another chapter in a historic rivalry, the Trojans want to let their play do the talking and are not concerned with the buildup.“They’re preparing humbly and they’re not too hyped about it even though it’s a big rivalry,” Williams said. “We’re prepared to win just like it’s any other team.”Much of rivalry week is made from the talk that happens between the two schools. Though that is all fun and games for the fans, the players at USC are not letting it affect their preparation, and they know that the only thing that matters is the final score.“We realize getting hyped and talking mess is not winning games,” redshirt senior linebacker Hayes Pullard said. “When you talk mess before the game the score is still 0-0, the clock is still 15 minutes. We have to block that out and just play within the lines.”last_img read more

Read More