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Quentin Hillsman said Tuesday that he wanted Syracuse to limit its turnovers to 12 or less in Syracuse’s first ACC matchup against Miami. It was one of the items listed on Hillsman’s and the team’s “goal list,” redshirt senior Kiara Lewis said. Failure to meet those goals meant the players “pay the price in practice.”
SU had 21 turnovers in its opener against Stony Brook, 18 against Division-II Lincoln and 17 against Penn State. The Orange added another 21 turnovers to their total on Thursday after a 69-58 win over Miami (3-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
“That’s not going to really work once we start getting deeper into ACC play and we start playing the better teams,” Lewis said of turnovers Tuesday via Zoom.
In Thursday’s matchup against its first conference opponent, No. 20 Syracuse (4-0, 1-0 ACC) controlled all four quarters, scoring the game’s first points and never relinquishing the lead. Following a 14-point performance from both Kamilla Cardoso and Tiana Mangakahia, Miami head coach Katie Meier highlighted Syracuse’s size and said the Orange were “tougher at the rim” and “tougher in the paint.” Hillsman said the road victory was a “steal” because of how difficult it is to win a conference game away from the Carrier Dome.
But Mangakahia had six turnovers and two fouls in the first quarter that forced her to sit on the bench for the entirety of the second quarter. Digna Strautmane and Emily Engstler each had another three. Syracuse will now “pay the price” of its 21-turnover performance before Sunday’s game against Binghamton.
“There’ll be a different kind of answer if we’re in February and we still have those problems,” Hillsman said Tuesday. “But right now, it’s early, and you’re trying to learn from it and show film and clean it up the best way you can.”
Miami scored 20 points off of Syracuse’s turnovers, the most the Orange have allowed through four games this season. Cardoso won the opening tipoff on the first play of the game, and Mangakahia carried the ball downcourt. She cut left, rounding her defender and getting to the baseline before losing control of her dribble and allowing the ball to trickle out of bounds.
She picked out a clean, cross-court pass to a wide-open Cardoso on the next play that led to an easy layup. Minutes later, Engstler drove to the basket and, with two defenders swarming, lofted a pass that couldn’t pick out Lewis on the top of the arc.
Mangakahia also tossed a long pass toward Cardoso who, unlike minutes before, couldn’t corral the ball. She was called for traveling twice later that quarter, but she cleaned up her play significantly in the second half. Syracuse’s all-time assist leader had more turnovers (nine) than assists (seven) in Thursday’s game. Meier said Mangakahia “still played great,” though she “turned it over way more than she’ll be happy with.”
SU’s point guard averaged 5.7 turnovers per game in 2017-18 and 3.9 in 2018-19. Through four games this season, she’s averaged 6.5 per game.
Hillsman said postgame that Mangakahia just needed to play smarter, and he mentioned that she was a little “rusty.” Mangakahia missed all of the 2019-20 season due to breast cancer, and after her recovery, the NCAA granted her an eligibility waiver.
“I’m just happy,” Hillsman said. “We’re very fortunate and blessed she’s back on the court and doing what she loves to do.”
Against Lincoln, a Division-II team, Hillsman attributed SU’s turnover problems to young, inexperienced players. Freshman Kiara Fisher had five turnovers across 20 minutes. Hillsman said he wasn’t frustrated and he “knew that we’d have some mistakes because we had our young kids in there playing.”
Hillsman attributed six of the team’s turnovers to “overpass(ing)” after the season-opener against Stony Brook. The Orange didn’t shoot open shots, instead driving into defenders and pump-faking, he said. Shooting the ball more would reduce turnovers by 30%, he said. Mangakahia, who had five turnovers during that game, said SU had “silly travels, just silly.”
“I really think we have to cut those down for her, easily. She has to just see the game better,” Hillsman said of Mangakahia before the Miami game. “And she’ll be able to do that as she gets going.”
Mangakahia showed progress Thursday after bouncing back from her first half performance. A minute into the third quarter, with Miami setting up its offense at the top of the arc, Mangakahia stepped in front of her defender and picked off a pass for a steal — one of the Hurricane’s 21 turnovers.
She drove down the floor and floated a pass over a defender’s head. The 6-foot-7 Cardoso extended both arms, made the easy layup, and jogged back. Mangakahia limped off the court in the final two minutes, but she played a more complete second half that featured only three turnovers.
“She’s giving it everything she has,” Hillsman said of Mangakahia. “She’s got a whole lot going on right now… But the more she plays the better she’s gonna be.”
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