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Syracuse won its sixth consecutive game on Saturday, continuing a dominant streak it’s had since returning from a winless trip to the Bahamas. The Orange have won by double digits in all but one game during that streak and have dominated both nonconference and Atlantic Coast Conference opponents.
Against the Retrievers, Syracuse rocketed out to a 12-0 lead and never looked back. The Orange continued their success forcing turnovers, and they dominated UMBC on the offensive glass en route to an 82-50 win.
Here are some observations from another nonconference win for Syracuse (8-4, 1-1 ACC) against UMBC (1-9):
The Orange came into Saturday’s game leading the ACC in steals and steals per game. They’ve used those forced turnovers to spark runs that have buried opponents in the last few games on the way to blowout wins like the 40-point one over Clemson last Saturday.
Before UMBC scored its first point, Alexia Nelson already had two turnovers, with an ill-advised pass down low from Janee’a Summers flying out of bounds and leading to a Syracuse 3. The Orange entered the game with a +6 turnover margin and finished the first quarter with just one turnover to UMBC’s seven. By the end of the game, the Orange had forced 27 turnovers, benefiting from 21 points off those stolen possessions.
SU has utilized a full-court press at various points throughout its games since returning from the Bahamas. In the early stages of Saturday’s game, it brought back tight defensive pressure to stifle UMBC’s offense. The Retrievers could hardly settle into their half-court plays before Syracuse’s defense was forcing errant passes.
The five-out offensive approach lends itself to more 3-pointers, and with UMBC settling into its own iteration of a 2-3 zone, Syracuse began the day firing frequently from beyond the arc. Christianna Carr started SU’s success from deep when she worked along the outer right-hand side of the 3-point line, allowing herself enough space to stop and pull up to give the Orange a 3-0 lead.
Syracuse shot at least 39.1% from deep in its previous six games, finally falling into a rhythm it had trouble finding at the beginning of the season. Early on, Najé Murray struggled from deep, taking the most shots from deep for the Orange. But much like she and SU did against Clemson, Murray finally settled in with a make from long range. Syracuse finished the first quarter 4-for-9 from 3.
Alaysia Styles dominates again
Within two minutes in the first quarter, Styles demonstrated her prowess in all facets of the game. She, along with Murray, smothered a driving attempt from Summers, nabbing the loose ball away to begin a fast-break possession. At the other end of the court, Styles passed out to Chrislyn Carr at the top of the key, where the guard finished the play to give SU a 10-0 lead and Styles one of her four assists. On Syracuse’s next possession, Styles pulled up from the free-throw line to bury a shot.
Styles notched her first double-double in Syracuse’s win against Clemson. Halfway through the second quarter against UMBC, she already had 10 points and three rebounds as the consistent catalyst of the Orange’s offense. Early in the first quarter, Styles collected a pass and crouched at the 3-point line. She looked around for someone to continue the play, but after two seconds of waiting, she drove to her left, passed her defender and capped off the run with a layup over her defender.
Orange continue red-hot offense
All five starters entered Saturday averaging double-digit points per game, lifting the Orange to the 14th-highest scoring team in the country. Injuries have forced Syracuse to play a seven- or eight-person rotation throughout the six-game winning streak, but it has also allowed the starting five to continue gelling together on the court. On Saturday, all but six points came from Syracuse’s five starters.
Much like in SU’s last three games, the Orange held a 21-point lead at the end of the first half and had a 23-point advantage to end the third quarter. Syracuse finished the day shooting just below 50% from the field, finding success from all areas of the court. Alaina Rice would drive into the paint to draw defenders off SU’s main scorers. Then she’d pass out like she did in the third quarter, when she found a wide-open Christianna for the make.
The Orange would generate an extra pass and allow someone to open up for a wide-open shot. Early in the fourth quarter, Rice drove in again and, instead of taking the contested layup, passed out to Chrislyn for a wide-open 3. Syracuse ended with 23 assists, continuing its 10-assist advantage it’s held over opponents.
UMBC ranked 332nd in the country in total rebounds per game and 310th in defensive boards, according to Her Hoop Stats, prior to Saturday’s game. The Orange are used to battling down low for rebounds, with guards like Teisha Hyman typically having to fade inward to help Styles and Christianna. Syracuse finished the first half with just two more total rebounds than the Retrievers but pulled down six offensive boards.
That allowed the Orange to extend possessions even further. In the second quarter, Styles and Nyah Wilson missed close-range shots but got one final rebound out to Rice, who passed out to Hyman at the top of the key. Hyman buried the shot to extend SU’s lead to 18.
In the third quarter, Syracuse managed to work the ball inside to Murray, who missed an initial layup. That began a quick sequence that saw her and Styles trading misses and ensuing offensive rebounds over UMBC defenders. Eventually, the Retrievers fouled Murray, who knocked down one of her two free throws.
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