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Syracuse entered the fourth quarter down by 28 points, with all indicators pointing to a fourth double-digit loss in the last four games. It couldn’t stop Boston College with any consistency. It had already allowed 40 points in the paint again. It had just seen Najé Murray fall awkwardly and get helped to the locker room with an apparent ankle injury.
But Chrislyn Carr and the rest of the Orange didn’t want the regular season to end on another blowout loss, and neither did acting head coach Vonn Read, who had opted for the full-court press just six minutes into the game.
Then SU bucked nearly every trend that had plagued it throughout the season. In place of Murray, Nyah Wilson drove straight in to the basket, going up and under the hoop for a layup. It was capitalizing on poor ball-handling skills, according to Teisha Hyman, and applying even more pressure on Boston College’s half of the court. By the time Murray passed across the court to find Chrislyn for a 3, the once-blowout advantage had been cut to just 13.
“We just came out and told ourselves we’re not going to get beat that bad again,” Chrislyn said. “It was just a pride thing.”
Syracuse ended up losing by 16 points, finishing the regular season as the No. 12 seed in the Atlantic Coast Conference and with its worst record since 2006-07. The Orange still gave up 52 points in the paint, allowed BC (19-10, 10-8) to shoot 61.3% from the field and went just 7-of-25 on 3-pointers, but a 20-5 run in the fourth quarter gave SU (11-17, 4-14) a chance and gives it something to build off of before the ACC tournament.
Sunday’s game marked the end of Read’s first regular season at the helm for the Orange. He said his goal for the team was to be one that constantly pressed, but injuries and a lack of depth off the bench forced him away from his “vision of the team.”
In the fourth quarter, Syracuse returned full strength to that vision. Christianna Carr didn’t drop all the way back after Syracuse scored. That allowed her to redirect herself to her left, throw her hands toward the ball and bat away a pass, ending Boston College’s possession before it began.
Read harped on the importance of the team getting stops on defense and generating shots out of the full-court press, something the Orange didn’t do for the first three quarters of Sunday’s game. Once it did, it allowed Chrislyn to sprint over to the right side of the outer arc after a turnover — one of the Eagles’ 24 — and drill a 3 during the comeback attempt. The press also allowed Hyman to take over, as she’d done in almost every game for SU this season.
“They are our two best players one-on-one,” Read said. “Both of them were trying to make plays one-on-one, and they’ve done that all year for us.”
One portion of the 20-5 run that helped Syracuse gain the momentum that Hyman believes makes the Orange “hard to stop” started with Hyman at halfcourt. She quickly batted the ball away from Cameron Swartz, turned around and ran for a breakaway layup. Hyman said she felt as though she was seeing the ball really well against the Eagles. That, combined with their subpar ball-handling skills, led to her team-leading six steals.
On the next play, before Boston College could begin calling out a play or settle back to their positions, Hyman swatted another ball away at halfcourt, leading to a drawn foul on a layup attempt and two made free throws.
While the press didn’t stop Boston College in the first three quarters, extending it to the entire court and shifting the front line up past the ‘S’ logo allowed Syracuse to keep the Eagles off balance. Read has talked about the importance of the press the entire season, and Hyman and Chrislyn know that they have to be dynamic play-creators at the top of the press in order for it to work and for teams to stay off-balance.
“Teisha can really put pressure on the ball — just looking over to the other side looks like they’re kind of scared of her,” Chrislyn said.
Hyman said defensive stops defined the momentum swing and strong run throughout the fourth quarter. Stopping Boston College and translating those stops into scoring opportunities of their own allowed the Orange to storm back, forcing head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee to sternly turn to her bench and call for the starting five to reenter against Syracuse. It couldn’t finish the comeback attempt, though, as Boston College regained a grasp on the flow of the game.
Taylor Soule flipped in a layup of her own to extend BC’s lead back out to 13 points, and Hyman missed her shot, a sign that SU’s comeback effort would likely fall short. The Eagles made a few more shots inside, and eventually Read called a timeout to empty out his bench and check out all of his senior starters. Time simply ran out on the Orange’s season and last hope at a conference win.
“Fighting back from adversity, that’s been our thing all year long. I thought that our young ladies stepped up, and they were able to compete,” Read said.
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