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Syracuse’s last two road wins were each decided by its free-throw shooting. But in its return to the Carrier Dome, that streak ended as the Orange dropped another crucial Atlantic Coast Conference battle. The Orange’s shooting improved after its worst shooting performance of the season against Pittsburgh.
But Syracuse (11-13, 4-10 Atlantic Coast) lost control of the paint as the game went on, falling to Florida State (13-11, 7-7 ACC) 73-67. The Orange, led by Teisha Hyman’s double-double and Chrislyn Carr’s seven made field goals, kept the game close early. But as the game progressed, and its rebounding became its usual lackluster self, SU fell once again to a higher-ranked ACC opponent.
Here are three observations from Syracuse’s loss to FSU:
3s improve, but aren’t enough
Syracuse wasn’t fouled on any shots in the opening quarter, giving it no other option than to generate its scoring from the field. In fact, it missed its only free throw of the opening half. But once Najé Murray scored her first 3 — the team’s first as well — waving three fingers in the air while sticking her tongue out, it was obvious the Orange had regained their confidence from deep.
Murray was held below 10 points for three straight losses, making just two field goals in each game. After that, Murray scored 11 on the road against Notre Dame, and her point total had since increased over the next four games, including a career-high 24 points against Virginia.
But against Pittsburgh, she was held scoreless for just the third time in her career — the first time at Syracuse. Murray missed all seven of her 3-pointers, the third time this season where she couldn’t convert from deep. Christianna Carr missed a 3-pointer from the right wing, and Florida State’s Sammie Puisis turned it over to hit a 3 of her own to put the Seminoles up nine points. Then, on Syracuse’s next possession, Christianna redeemed herself with a 3-pointer from the same spot, pulling the Orange back within six points.
Without that 3, Syracuse would’ve been down by double-digits early on. The Orange made only three 3s in the second half as opposed to the four it put up in the first.
Improved rebounding ignites SU’s transition game
Syracuse entered the game as the 20th worst rebounding team in the country in terms of its total rebounding rate, having only grabbed an average of 44.9% of its boards, per HerHoop Stats. Its defensive rebounding percentage — the sixth-worst nationally — sits at just over 60%. Florida State, on the other hand, grabbed 53.7% of its rebounds.
With eight defensive boards in the first 10 minutes, Syracuse limited Florida State to just two offensive rebounds. And as both teams went on a near five-minute scoreless run in the second quarter, the Orange were able to offset another wave of inconsistent shooting by continuing to secure defensive rebounds. It limited a similarly-sized Seminoles team to just six offensive rebounds and four second-chance points at the half.
In return, Syracuse got its transition game going, scoring 11 first-half points on the fastbreak. Led by Hyman and Alaysia Styles with six and four defensive rebounds at the break, respectively, the Orange were able to use its speedy weapons, like Chrislyn, to transition quickly, catching the Seminoles flat-footed. Murray secured a defensive rebound after a missed 3 from Kourtney Weber, and immediately launched a ball into FSU’s end to Chrislyn for an open layup, giving SU a narrow, one-point lead midway through the second quarter.
In the third quarter, however, Syracuse’s rebounding was led by Hyman, who grabbed five of SU’s nine rebounds that quarter. The Orange, after reverting back to their 2-3 zone, allowed Florida State more space inside to score its 12 points in the paint, while the Orange managed just six. But as Syracuse failed to grab offensive boards, it diminished its already under-the-radar performances in the paint, which is where the Seminoles ultimately won the game.
Zone defense opens up the paint
Syracuse played tighter, almost man-to-man defense in the first half, and it paid off. Its rebounding improved, as the Orange stayed in the game by keeping up with defensive boards. They also recorded double figures in steals for the 13th time this season.
Early on, Syracuse was able to convert on the Seminoles’ turnovers to score 22 points in transition which was led mainly by Chrislyn. But later in the game, as the Orange’s defense opened up, it led to more second-chance plays for Florida State that ultimately diminished any final call for a late comeback, like the one against Pittsburgh.
After a bad pass turnover from Alaina Rice who tried to fling it back out for Chrislyn, Sara Bejedi missed a jumper that was rebounded by River Baldwin, who stripped it out of Murray’s hands. Then FSU’s Erin Howard’s missed layup as the shot clock expired and the ball was picked up by Baldwin again, leading to a personal foul from Chrislyn. Then, on the Seminoles’ inbound play, Howard scored a layup to put the Seminoles up 12 with two minutes left.
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