Get the latest Syracuse news delivered right to your inbox.
Subscribe to our sports newsletter here.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — After defeating Boston College and knocking out Florida State on a buzzer-beater put-back from Kamilla Cardoso, Syracuse faced top-seeded Louisville.
Syracuse trailed by just three at halftime against No. 1 Louisville, but the Cardinals outscored Syracuse 35-25 in the second half, as Dana Evans finished with a team-high 21 points. On the season, Evans led the Atlantic Coast Conference, averaging 20.5 points per game for the top-ranked offense in the conference.
At the end of 40 minutes, Syracuse was eliminated by Louisville in a 72-59 loss. Here are three takeaways from the game:
As Amaya Finklea-Guity walked onto the court in pregame warmups, she immediately looked over to teammate Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi and said she was “tired.” After three games, Syracuse played a seven-player rotation against Louisville on Saturday. That rotation would’ve been even smaller if Hillsman didn’t play guard Ava Irvin — who had played just six minutes the whole season before Saturday.
Syracuse began running a slow offense in the first quarter, working the shot clock and looking for an open response. Meanwhile, the Cardinals pressured SU with a full-court press and utilized its bigger roster – 10 Cardinals suited up on Saturday.
With Syracuse trailing by six, Kiara Lewis ran by her defender on a drive to the basket and found an opening to the hoop. Louisville freshman Olivia Cochran stepped out of the paint to contest as Lewis crashed into the Cardinals forward, leading to a blocking foul.
Instead of immediately popping up, Lewis sat on the ground with her arms on her knees, waiting for forward Digna Strautmane to help her up.
Eventually, that fatigue caught up to SU, as Louisville outscored Syracuse by six in the second half.
Slow start for Dana Evans
Louisville’s back-to-back winner of the ACC’s Player of the Year award started slowly in the first half, finishing with just four points. Evans didn’t score her third and fourth points until seconds left in the second quarter, when she was fouled by Engstler on a transition drive to the basket.
Evans finished the first half shooting 1-6 from the field and missing all three of her 3’s. Once Evans realized her shots weren’t falling, she began dishing to fellow guard Kianna Smith, who finished the first half with a game-high nine points on 4-6 shooting from the field.
But in the second half on Louisville’s first possession, Evans controlled the ball and cut inside for an open, left-handed layup.
With Strautmane filling in at the top of the zone in SU’s defense, Evans easily weaved around the 6-foot-2 forward. Whether she was finding players such as Cochran in gaps for baskets — or shots that led to fouls — or finding open shooters, Evans relied on her passing.
Early in the first quarter, an outmatched Strautmane reached in on Evans for Strautmane’s first of three fouls.
Sixth-man plays like a star
The ACC’s C0-Sixth Player of the Year, Engstler, was the best player for most of the game for Syracuse. The junior finished with a season-high 21 points while crashing the glass throughout for 10 rebounds. After playing over 32 minutes only twice in the regular season, Engstler sat for just two minutes over three ACC tournament games.
Engstler took an inbound pass and looked straight ahead as Louisville led by 11 in the second quarter. Two of her teammates flanked her on either side. Without looking to pass, the forward dribbled down court, past the ACC logo, past her defender and straight to the hoop before leaping for an easy layup.
As Syracuse continued to struggle with foul trouble, fatigue and a superior opponent, Engstler continued to battle for possessions on the glass. Early in the fourth quarter, Engstler positioned herself underneath the basket and threw her body backward to block out Cardinal guard Norika Konno. After grabbing the rebound, Engstler passed ahead, leading to a Djaldi-Tabdi drawn foul.
Throughout the game, Engstler filled whatever role the Orange needed of her — whether that was bringing the ball upcourt, shooting 3’s or grabbing rebounds. With 5:26 left in the fourth quarter, she did all three in the same play. After bringing the ball up, Engstler jacked up a 3. As Cardoso grabbed the offensive rebound and missed a putback, Engslter stepped past a fallen Louisville player and was fouled on a third-chance opportunity. A made free throw cut the Cardinals’ lead to nine.
Despite Engstler’s strong play, Syracuse couldn’t extend its tournament run, falling to a fresher Cardinal squad.
The post 3 takeaways from Syracuse’s 72-59 loss to Louisville appeared first on The Daily Orange.