Get the latest Syracuse news delivered right to your inbox.
Subscribe to our sports newsletter here.
At the start of the third quarter, Amber Brown scored a layup to put Pittsburgh within five points of Syracuse’s halftime lead. But on the ensuing inbound pass, Chrislyn Carr quickly moved the ball in transition, leaving a trailing Teisha Hyman with an open look at the left wing.
Instead of shooting immediately, Hyman suddenly sent a cross-court pass to Christianna Carr at the right wing for a successful 3.
Three minutes later, the Panthers continued to claw back on the Orange’s lead, but Christianna positioned herself at the same spot, the ball. But like Hyman, Christianna gave up her own opportunity, firing an overhand bullet pass to Najé Murray at the opposite wing.
Murray found the bottom of the net, cementing a Syracuse lead that wouldn’t be less than three for the rest of the afternoon.
“We got some good looks, and we knocked them down,” acting head coach Vonn Read said. “I’m not surprised by 13 3-pointers by us.”
The Orange’s (9-10, 2-7 ACC) 13 makes from beyond the arc matched a season-high, one they set in their only other Atlantic Coast Conference win of the season against Clemson on Dec. 11. Syracuse struggled to score from beyond the arc in recent games, finishing its last two games against Georgia Tech and Notre Dame shooting 20.0% and 15.0% from 3-point range, respectively. But in its return to the Carrier Dome, Syracuse shot 40.6% from deep in its 80-72 win over Pittsburgh (11-10, 2-8 ACC) on Sunday.
Despite the latest struggles from deep, specifically in five of their last seven games where they shot below 30% from that range, the Orange started the game looking for open looks deep. With the lack of size inside against Pittsburgh’s forwards, SU surrendered, establishing center Alaysia Styles in the post, having her receive the ball at the top of the arc instead.
Murray said Styles and the rest of Syracuse’s offense have realized that defenses have not respected Styles’ range since she adapted a new position after transferring to SU that has made her simply an inside presence.
Against the Panthers, however, Styles was the first to attempt from deep, though her shot hit the front rim and backboard before rattling out. But Styles found the bottom of the net on her second and third heaves from the right wing following a make by Murray from the same spot.
“Her ability to come out on the wing, teams have been slagging off her because she hasn’t attempted them all year,” Murray said. “Now she is starting to attempt them, and she gets a few. If she can get one or two a game for us, that’s killer.”
Christianna, who has also stayed relatively quiet from deep as another big for the Orange, added a fourth 3-pointer before giving them the lead in the second quarter with a strike from deep. She continued to get open from deep by getting into spots that Pittsburgh left empty in its defense, tying a season-high with 19 points, including three 3-pointers.
Recently, Syracuse had also tried to push the pace on every offensive possession, shooting early in the shot clock in order to prevent elite defenses like Georgia Tech’s. The Orange finished with 55 points against the Yellow Jackets using this strategy, their third-lowest total of the season.
But against a Pittsburgh defense that allowed a 31.3% 3-point percentage from its opponents this season, Syracuse didn’t try to push the pace on every possession. It took its time, with Chrislyn handling the ball to allow Styles and Christianna to set up screens at the wings for other players to use.
Still with the slight change in strategy, Read said that the difference against the Panthers wasn’t any change to SU’s 5-out system. It was simply because shots started falling.
“I thought it was just a matter of time — they’ve been getting some good shots,” Read said. “They stepped up and knocked them down today, knowing we needed to protect home court.”
But the biggest factor for the Orange was the performance from Murray, who hadn’t scored more than once from beyond the arc since she missed a few games after getting COVID-19 last month. Murray, who had been the kickstarter for SU’s offense since the start of the season, took one of the first shots from deep against the Panthers after they took a 5-2 lead.
In the second half, Pittsburgh continued to fight back on the Orange’s expanding lead, bringing it down to eight with a layup from Taisha Exanor. Chrislyn took the ball in transition, but with the Panthers defense still lagging on the other side of the court, she quickly passed to Murray at the left wing. This time, pushing the pace worked as the ball found the bottom of the net.
“Najé hit some really crucial shots when they were making their runs,” Read said.
Less than two minutes into the final quarter, Murray took the ball up on the left side as Syracuse’s lead had diminished to three. With no defenders in front of her, Murray had a wide-open look at the left wing, but she decided to swing the ball around instead.
While the ball cycled between Murray to Hyman and then Christianna, Murray ran through the paint and stopped at the right corner. The Panthers’ defense couldn’t keep up with Murray’s movements, leaving her unmarked in that spot. She scored, capping a team-high four 3-pointers and keeping the Orange’s lead at five.
“Every time all five of us score double-digits we win, and today all five of us scored double-digits,” Murray said about the Orange’s starting group. “My teammates, they don’t tell me to stop shooting — they just keep me going.”
The post Syracuse ties season-high 13 3-pointers in 80-72 win over Pittsburgh appeared first on The Daily Orange.