Syracuse beats Washington to advance to championship game

By Jeff Washburn, The Sports Xchange
Syracuse beats Washington to advance to championship game
Syracuse University's basketball team reacts to their win over Washington Huskies in their National Semifinal game of 2016 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 3, 2016. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo

INDIANAPOLIS -- Syracuse calls them hustle points -- those scored as the result of turnovers and offensive rebounds. That hustle was very good to the 14th-ranked Orange in Sunday night's second national semifinal against unranked Washington.

Syracuse also rode balanced scoring to an 80-59 win over Washington, earning an opportunity to play top-ranked Connecticut on Tuesday in the women's national championship game.


Syracuse scored 20 points as the result of Huskies turnovers and 17 more as the result of offensive rebounds, enjoying a 21-point differential in those two categories.

While Washington's Talia Walton made her first eight 3-point attempts and finished with 29 points, Syracuse stifled the Huskies' leading scoring, Kelsey Plum, for most of the game while dominating the glass and forcing turnovers.

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Guard Alexis Peterson led Syracuse (30-7) with 18 points, guard Brittney Sykes followed with 17 points, Brianna Butler scored 12, and Cornelia Fondren had 10. Briana Day contributed 15 rebounds for Syracuse, which won the Sioux Falls, S.D., region as a No. 4 seed.

"We get a lot of energy from our pressure defense," said Peterson, who had two of Syracuse's 11 steals. "It's not easy facing that press."


Sykes said the formula for beating Washington for a second time this season -- the Orange won 66-62 in November in Las Vegas -- was not complicated.

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"We had to turn them over, and we had to make 3s," Sykes said.

Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman asked his team to do two things against Washington.

"Our players pushed the pace, and our players pushed the tempo," Hillsman said.

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Thanks to a solid fourth quarter, Plum finished with 17 points but made only five of 18 shots, including one of six from 3-point range. Aside from Walton and Plum, the other five Washington players who participated scored a total of 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

The Huskies (26-11) emerged from the Lexington, Ky., region as a No. 7 seed.

"They played super hard, they pressured us and they hit big shots," Plum said.

Syracuse out-rebounded Washington 46-28 and committed only 10 turnovers while the Huskies were guilty of 18. The Orange made 30 of 71 field-goal attempts (43.2 percent), while Washington hit 20 of 52 (38.5 percent).

"They ran us out of our zone, and then we couldn't rebound," Washington coach Mike Neighbors said. "Honestly, they did what they do well better than we did what we do well. It's really hard to simulate their pressure defense in practice."


Despite six 3-pointers and 19 first-half points from Walton, Syracuse led 43-31 at halftime. The Orange raced to a quick 10-3 lead and enjoyed a 16-4 advantage in points in the paint through two quarters.

Syracuse also took advantage of nine Washington turnovers to enjoy a 12-7 edge in points scored as the result of miscues.

Taylor Ford came off the bench for eight first-half Syracuse points, and Briana Day had four points and 10 rebounds. Day finished with a game-high 15 boards.

The Orange shot 46.2 percent from the field in the first half (18 of 39) while Washington shot 38.5 percent (10 of 26). Walton was 6-for-10. Her teammates were a collective 4-for-16.

Syracuse also dominated the glass in the first half, 24-14.

NOTES: Syracuse had 16 wins in its past 17 games, losing only to Notre Dame in the ACC tournament. ... Of the Orange five starters, four are juniors, including leading scorer Alexis Peterson (16.1 points per game). ... Syracuse defeated Tennessee 89-67 to advance to the program's first Final Four. ... Like Syracuse, Washington was participating in its first Final Four. ... Washington came in 8-1 in its past nine games, losing only to fellow Final Four participant Oregon State in the Pac-12 tournament. ... Huskies G Kelsey Plum came in averaging 26.2 points.


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