Syracuse advances to program’s first-ever Sweet 16 with 76-59 win over Albany

first_img Published on March 20, 2016 at 6:08 pm Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Comments By following the same script it had all season, Syracuse got what it wanted against Albany. Eight made 3s are on par with its standard performance (average: 8.8). So are its 23 caused turnovers (average: 24.5). Knocking down deep shots and suffocating opponents with its press defense are its bread and butter.At his season-opening press conference on Oct. 16, Hillsman said the difference between losing in the Round of 32 and making the Sweet 16 would come down to his bench players.One hundred and fifty-six days later, it did. Backup center Bria Day played a season-high 28 minutes in relief of her sister Briana Day, who picked up two fouls in the first two minutes. Morrison came off the bench and tallied 11 points in 16 minutes.When the game ended, Hillsman paced around the court, pointed his hands to the crowd and shouted, “Thank you!” The fans replied by showering the coach who never wavered in his formula with cheers.“Every year, I have that beginning of the year press conference and everybody says what are your expectations and I say, ‘Go undefeated and go to a national championship,’ and everybody writes that down and kind of smirks,” Hillsman said. “… For us, it’s the next step to being closer to winning a national championship.”After the Orange lost to Notre Dame in the ACC championship game, Hillsman said his team should host the first two games and should win them. That’s how it works to get to the title game.As soon as the bracket was unveiled on Monday, Hillsman, already with Sioux Falls on his mind, said he’s looking forward to learning more about the city he, and most of his players, have never been to. With so much unfamiliarity in a new place and a previously unreachable round, Syracuse will lean on what it did Sunday, and the 33 games before that.“Play Syracuse basketball,” Reiss said, “we will win.” On back-to-back possessions in the first quarter, Maggie Morrison hit a 3. The second gave SU the lead for good. On Albany’s next possession, the Great Danes couldn’t beat Syracuse’s press and were called for a 10-second violation. Albany called a timeout shortly after. Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman stepped onto the court, windmilled both arms and unleashed a boisterous, “Yeah!” audible from the other side of the court.“This time of year, it’s fun,” Peterson said. “…You should celebrate, you should feel happy that you’re one of the teams still dancing.”As Albany cut SU’s lead to nine with 5:28 to play, Hillsman wanted the ball in the hands of Peterson, the first-team all-ACC point guard. The Great Danes had trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter against No. 5 seed Florida and came all the way back in the first round on Friday.Peterson ensured Albany wouldn’t capture the magic again.Sixteen seconds later, she drove to the basket and got fouled. Peterson stood waiting to receive the ball at the free-throw line, clapped four times and grinned ear-to-ear. First shot: swish. Second shot: swish. She held her follow through in the air. Albany never got within single digits again. At the media timeout with five minutes left, Peterson waved her towel and screamed inside SU’s huddle.“I said, ‘Alexis, I trust you with the ball in your hands. I trust you with the ball. Go get the ball. … I don’t care. Go get the ball,’” Hillsman said. “That’s how much faith I have with her.”MORE COVERAGE:Brittney Sykes turns in vintage performance launching Syracuse into Sweet 16Bria Day steps up as ‘MVP’ in 76-59 win over AlbanyGallery: Syracuse beats the Great Danes in the Carrier Dome Related Stories Brittney Sykes turns in vintage performance launching Syracuse into 1st-ever Sweet 16Bria Day steps up as ‘MVP’ in 76-59 win over AlbanyGallery: Syracuse beats Albany, 76-59, in NCAA tournament Round of 32 matchup The memories flashed back in Tammi Reiss’ head. The moments when Syracuse could have crumbled. When accomplishing its goal of hosting NCAA tournament games could have slipped through its fingers. The assistant coach remembered the embarrassment she felt after back-to-back blowout losses to Notre Dame and Louisville.Then she thought of the Orange’s 11-game win streak this season. The dominance it showed in that stretch. The way SU’s style could shut down some of the best teams in the country.“All those things start to go through your mind,” Reiss said.“All of that was for this moment.”For the first time in school history, No. 4 seed SU (27-7, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) advanced to the Sweet 16 after back-to-back losses in the Round of 32 the past two seasons. Syracuse took down No. 12 seed Albany (28-5, 15-1 America East), 76-59, on Sunday, in front of 3,842 fans, the third-largest crowd for a women’s basketball game in Carrier Dome history.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange will face No. 1 seed South Carolina in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Friday.As junior point guard Alexis Peterson — who finished with 22 points, her fourth consecutive NCAA tournament game with 20-plus points — dribbled out the clock, seniors Brittney Sykes and Cornelia Fondren hugged each other. Then Fondren hugged senior Brianna Butler when the clock hit zero. Peterson chucked the ball, and any thought that SU would get upset, in the air and out of sight.Syracuse had never won an NCAA tournament game when each of them began their careers as freshmen. Now, the Orange has won four tournament games in the past three years. Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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