Syracuse gets 87 points from newcomers in 95-68 season-opening win over Morgan State

first_imgSyracuse’s Digna Strautmane caught the ball near the top of the key late in the second quarter and didn’t hesitate to shoot. The shot was long and bounced off the back rim up into the air. It settled at the top of the backboard momentarily and then dropped straight through the rim for two of Strautmane’s 17 points in her collegiate debut.“Eurobasket is completely different from here, so you have to adjust,” freshman Strautmane said. “There’s still a lot of work to go, but it was fun as a first game.”Syracuse (1-0), led by Strautmane and a host of players making their SU debuts, defeated Morgan State (0-1) on Friday afternoon in the Carrier Dome, 95-68. Strautmane was just one of five newcomers to score in double digits for Syracuse. Strautmane herself displayed a diverse skillset brought over from Europe.After losing four starters from last season to graduation, production had to be picked up by new players, and in the season opener, it was. Gabrielle Cooper was the only second-year player to score for Syracuse, totaling 8 points. That means 87 of Syracuse’s points were from players in their first game for SU.The first bucket of the new season came on a right-handed runner in the lane from Strautmane, a forward from Riga, Latvia. She led the Orange with eight first-half points and finished the game with a double-double, totaling 17 points and 11 rebounds, along with a team-high four blocks. Strautmane shot 8 for 13 from the field as well and didn’t hesitate to let fly from 3 — though she made just one of her five attempts — and even drained a few shots from about 15 feet.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“She’s a hybrid player, she can do it all,” Hillsman said. “When you have a player like that, you have a good chance to be successful back there. I thought she was amazing tonight.”The quick pace of the game was dictated by Australian-born junior college transfer Tiana Mangakahia. Morgan State utilized a full-court press for the majority of the game and often Mangakahia sized up double teams in front of her, disregarded them and dribbled around or between the opposition. At times when the Morgan State pressure pushed even higher up the floor, Mangakahia flung long, overhead passes to streaking Syracuse players for open shots at the rim.Mangakahia finished the game with two team-highs: 10 assists and three steals. She also led the team in minutes by a wide margin, playing 34 minutes while the next closest player, Strautmane, played 27.“Without her, we’re done. We don’t win without Tiana,” Hillsman said. “She’s the key to us winning this game and the key to our players getting open shots. We just got to knock them down. She should have had 18 assists tonight.”Mangakahia and Strautmane were joined in the starting lineup by two other newcomers, transfer Miranda Drummond and freshman Amaya Finklea-Guity, who both scored in double figures, 15 and 12, respectively. Isis Young and Jasmine Nwajei scored 13 points and 11 points off the bench, respectively. The bench proved vital with the frequency Hillsman subbed players on and off the court.“(It’s a) hockey deal,” Hillsman said. “We gotta keep subbing and play as fast as we can.”Drummond featured prominently on the offensive glass, tying for a team-high with six offensive rebounds. Finklea-Guity caused problems for Morgan State down low as all her points came off layups or at the free throw line.Nwajei and Young coming off the bench kept the tempo high even when Mangakahia took a breather. No player had the ball finish possessions in her hands more than Young, who had a team high 35.5 percent usage rate which resulted in 13 points on a team-high 16 shots, including a 2-for-10 mark from 3-point territory. Young ensured that the game stayed as fast as Hillsman wanted at all times.Inside of four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Syracuse finally took its foot off the pedal and slowed the game down. For the first time all game, Mangakahia had to hold herself back from pushing through the Morgan State defense yet again and instead waited for the shot clock to wind down. After pushing the pace all game, Syracuse could take a breather to end its first game of the season.“Our goal was to make the game fast,” Hillsman said. “I was very pleased with the effort, I thought that for the first game, when you have the newcomers … Just a tremendous job.” Comments Published on November 10, 2017 at 5:26 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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