SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman likes to say the objective of the Orange’s swarming defense is to make opponents uncomfortable.
Count Army coach Dave Magarity among the rattled after his Black Knights were blanketed in a 73-56 loss to the Orange in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Friday.
”We faced that kind of a defense probably never,” Magarity said. ”It’s just overwhelming at times. It’s relentless and it’s very, very difficult to ever get comfortable.”
Alex Peterson scored 24 points, and the Orange defense limited Army to hitting just 5 of 21 field goal attempts in building a 39-14 halftime lead.
Briana Day scored 11 points and added 12 rebounds for the Orange (26-7), who matched a program record for victories. Syracuse advanced to face 12th-seeded Albany on Sunday in the second round of the Sioux Falls Regional.
The Black Knights (29-3) had a 19-game winning streak snapped and have now lost the opening round game in each of their three tournament appearances. Army senior guard Kelsey Minato’s career came to an end a few weeks after she became the school’s first active player – man or woman – to have their jersey retired. Army’s all-time leading scorer finished with 10 points – the last two coming on free throws she hit with 10.4 seconds left.
Though a season-low for Minato, the 10 points allowed her to extend streak of scoring in double digits to 112 consecutive games.
Shutting down Minato was the key for the Orange.
”She’s an amazing player. I watched eight games and in every one she did something that made me go, `Wow,”’ Hillsman said. ”We were more worried about once we got her contained that other players would start to make shots count.”
It proved too little too late for the Black Knights, who made final result respectable by outscoring Syracuse 42-34 in the second half.
Despite the loss, Minato was pleased with how she and her fellow seniors went 99-28 over four years to make it Army’s most successful class.
”We have a lot to look back on that we accomplished,” she said.
The Orange led by as many as 30 points with 3:34 left in the first half, when Brianna Butler hit a 3-point basket. The Orange were dominating while playing in front of a sparse crowd. The announced attendance was 2,445.
Syracuse improved to 3-7 in making its eighth tournament appearance. And it has now won a first-round game in each of the past three years.
It wasn’t until the second half when Army finally found a semblance of a groove.
A cheer went up among Army fans midway through the third quarter, when Minato hit a 3-point basket to cut Syracuse’s lead to 43-24. The Black Knights closed to within 14 with 2:07 left when Jean Parker – set up by Minato – hit a 3-point basket.
Syracuse: Butler, the Orange’s leading scorer, had an off day hitting just 2 of 13 attempts for 5 points. She also finished 1 of 11 in 3-point attempts.
Army: Lost for first time since a 79-69 defeat at Patriot League rival Bucknell on Jan. 2.
Syracuse will face 12th-seeded Albany in second-round on Sunday.
Army’s season is over.