3 takeaways from Syracuse’s 82-51 national championship loss to Connecticut

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ INDIANAPOLIS — Brittney Sykes jogged off the court with 2:38 remaining in Syracuse’s season, and looked straight in the eyes of her head coach. Quentin Hillsman held the sides of her head and spoke softly to his embattled veteran guard, possibly playing the last game of her career, then kissed her on the forehead and sent her down the bench.“It was surreal,” Sykes said of exiting the court after sharing a moment with her head coach. “He was proud of me, there’s not much you can say right then and there.”It provided picturesque finality to a game that seemed out of reach from the moment Syracuse lost the opening tipoff. Connecticut (38-0, 18-0 American Athletic) ended Syracuse’s (30-8, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) miracle March run, winning its fourth straight national championship, 82-51.Here are three takeaways from Syracuse’s season ending loss in its first-ever championship game.Homecoming queenAdvertisementThis is placeholder textBreanna Stewart, the North Syracuse native, played her hometown team Tuesday for the first time since the 2013 Big East tournament. After winning the opening tip by a hands-length over Briana Day, she never relented her stranglehold on the last game of her illustrious career.“She has accomplished something that nobody else in NCAA women’s basketball has,” Sykes said. “And that’s four consecutive (championships).“Her last one just happened to be against us, and yeah, it stings.”The Connecticut senior class swept a career of championships, with starters Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck joining Stewart atop college basketball’s landscape.Stewart spurned a collegiate offer to play for the Orange out of high school, but called this game a “full-circle” type of moment for her career and was happy the program took the next step to reach its first national championship. Unfortunately for Syracuse, Stewart tripped SU as it tried to step up to college basketball’s mountaintop.It took 68 seconds for her to showcase her all-encompassing skillset. Brittney Sykes drove the paint on SU’s second possession and her shot was met promptly by Stewart’s hand for a clean block. The 6-foot-4 UConn guard drove the length of the court and hit a 3 in the face of Sykes to give the Huskies an early 4-0 lead.She hit two more 3s than SU’s best deep shooter, Brianna Butler, and nabbed seven more rebounds the Orange’s best big, Briana Day. Everything Syracuse could do, Stewart could do better. And it wasn’t close.She finished the first half with 14 points, and appropriate finished her career game with more tallies on her stat line than anyone else. Her 24 points, three 3s and ten rebounds were all more than anyone else on the floor Tuesday night.Boarded upSyracuse struggled to put together any scoring runs largely because it just didn’t have the ball. The Orange was bruised badly on the boards, at one point getting out-rebounded 17-4 in the first quarter before finishing the game in a 43-27 deficit.With 3:43 remaining in the first half, Bria Day was the only Syracuse player with more than one rebound. She had two. Morgan Tuck and Stewart teamed up to bully SU under the basket, finishing with a combined 17 rebounds, and even the chances Syracuse had it usually couldn’t hold on to.Isabella Slim and Briana Day fumbled the ball back and forth after a missed 3 by Peterson, and Jefferson promptly intervened to begin another Huskies possession.“You have to rebound,” Briana Day said. “With such a good rebounding team like (Connecticut) we have to rebound. And we didn’t.”At the end of the opening 20 minutes, four UConn players had at least four rebounds, more than any other Syracuse player.Off their gameSyracuse has gotten this far running off its blueprint of fast-paced scoring and press defense. The press causes a surplus of turnovers that the Orange have been able to hit 3s in transition. It took more deep shots than any team in the ACC, and in turn, made the most.Led by active leader in career 3s, Brianna Butler, who went 1-of-4 from deep, Syracuse shot wildly to try and overcome the Huskies ever-growing lead. SU finished the first half only 2-of-12 from behind the arc, with the only other 3 coming out of the hand of Taylor Ford in her handful of minutes played.“We were just excited,” Maggie Morrison said. “I think we were trying to get some of our excitement out. Playing a little too fast, taking quick shots.”The ambitious shot by Butler served as a microcosm of her team’s early-shooting struggles, seemingly shaken by college basketball’s biggest stage. Peterson then missed a 3 after Butler. Sykes clanked a jumper. Butler missed another 3 before Sykes finally got points next to Syracuse’s name on the scoreboard.After 12 attempts from deep in the first half, Syracuse pumped the brakes on its aggressive shooting. Peterson started settling for mid-range jumpers, and Butler took only one 3 in the first 15 minutes of the second half. The less ambitious shooting served better for SU’s field-goal percentage, but aside from a 14-0 third-quarter run, didn’t push the scoreboard anymore in their favor.“Well Coach Q told us any shot we get is a good shot when you’re going against a good basketball game,” guard Cornelia Fondren said. “Any shot we took we had to take it.“But we weren’t making shots.” Comments Published on April 5, 2016 at 9:40 pm Contact Connor: [email protected] | @connorgrossmanlast_img read more

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