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Najé Murray mishandled the ball at the top of the arc, conceding her second turnover of the first half. But Boston College’s Taylor Soule missed her layup on the other end after Murray sped down court in time to contest the shot.
But Syracuse’s 5-foot-6 guard was outmuscled by Jaelyn Batts on the rebound attempt. The two fought for the ball, but it was pried loose into the hands of Kaylah Ivey, who missed the layup but fell to the floor as Murray fouled her.
Thursday’s game was the opposite of a welcome return back into the lineup for Murray, who, along with three other SU players, hadn’t played in 19 days and missed the game against UNC last week due to health and safety protocols. And it was far from a bounce-back performance for a Syracuse team whose six-game win streak ended after a 36-point loss to the then No. 24 Tar Heels.
Syracuse (8-6, 1-3 Atlantic Coast) fell 95-71 in its fourth conference game of the season to Boston College (10-4, 1-2 ACC). The Eagles, who entered the game with the fourth-highest field goal percentage in the country at 47.92%, made 38 field goals, a season-high, as the Orange allowed their most points of the season.
Boston College entered the game with the country’s sixth-best 2-point shooting percentage, making 55.1% of its attempts. In the first half, the Eagles erupted for 22 points in the paint and finished with 50 for the game, displaying a knack for scoring inside.
When BC brought the ball inside, it was Maria Gakdeng who dominated, notching nine rebounds and scoring all 21 of her points in the paint besides three free throws. Late in the first quarter, Gakdeng spun around Christianna Carr in the paint and tucked home a layup on a pass from Makayla Dickens. On another play, Gakdeng was able to muscle her way for a layup and was fouled by Christianna in the process. She made the shot from the line to give Boston College a 27-point lead.
With success in the paint, BC was able to drive and kick the ball out to the wings to secure 11 made 3 pointers, and SU’s lack of size, combined with an ineffective zone defense, led to that strategy working against it throughout the game.
With BC on a 7-0 run toward the end of the first quarter, Dickens received the ball at the top of the right arc. She faked a shot, dribbled into the paint and sent a pass out to the left wing for a wide-open Cameron Swartz, who drilled the 3-pointer. Swartz scored her second 3 early in the second quarter on a similar kick out play, this time from the right wing.
Such openings were the result of Syracuse’s biggest defensive collapse of the season. It conceded 50 points in the paint for the second consecutive week along with a season-high 38 total field goals. But acting head coach Vonn Read believed his zone defense was baited into collapsing on BC’s forwards in the paint, leaving openings on the perimeter.
“They were hurting us inside. They had 50 points in the paint,” Read said. “We knew that they had some shooters — those kids can really shoot the ball. When we did squeeze in (the paint), they made those open shots.”
Syracuse, on the other hand, made just seven 3s as a team, tying a season-low set at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament. Three were scored by Alaina Rice, who scored 17 points off the bench, tying Teisha Hyman for the team-lead. While Murray and Christianna also scored double-figures, neither registered more than four made field goals.
Murray hadn’t played since Syracuse’s blowout 32-point win against UMBC in mid-December and showed some early rust, costing the Orange important points inside the paint. Murray missed five layups on Thursday, four of them coming in the first half, when she shot 2-for-13. Chrislyn Carr worked the ball inside to Murray midway through the opening quarter, trying to set her up for a routine layup. Instead, the ball slipped through her fingers and went out of bounds.
With Murray and Alaysia Styles back in the lineup on Thursday, a lack of team chemistry — what Read attributed the UNC loss to — no longer factored into the defeat to the Eagles. Murray shot below 20% from the field for the first time this season, and Styles, Syracuse’s “center by committee” this season, recorded just one rebound. The Orange were outrebounded 51 to 35 over the course of the game.
A combination of missed chances and poor rebounding from SU led to 66 field goal attempts from BC, who unlike the Orange, made the most of those chances. After Murray missed a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter, Clara Ford brought down an uncontested defensive rebound. She stretched the ball to the left wing for Soule, and then in the paint to Batts, who kicked the ball out to the right wing for Marnelle Garraud, and the guard drilled the shot to give the Eagles a 17-point lead, its biggest lead to that point.
After Dontavia Waggoner scored a layup of her own to give BC a 14-point lead with just over two minutes remaining in the second quarter, Syracuse slowly moved the ball around the arc. As the shot clock ticked down, Rice dribbled into the paint with speed and prepared for a shot. But Waggoner tracked Rice down the whole way and blocked the layup attempt as the Eagles took a 16-point lead into halftime.
Read acknowledged that Syracuse’s lack of size will almost always be exploited inside, an issue he knows cannot be easily fixed moving forward.
“The formula has always been to try to get the ball inside against us,” Read said. “For the second time in a row, teams have got 50 points in the paint. That’s tough.”
The post Syracuse struggles inside, allows season-high 95-points in blowout loss against Boston College appeared first on The Daily Orange.