Women's Basketball

Syracuse continues rigorous stretch as it travels to Cincinnati

Spencer Bodian | Staff Photographer

Syracuse forward Carmen Tyson-Thomas scored 15 points against Providence after sitting out the previous game against Seton Hall.

It’s a grueling stretch of the season for Syracuse. Away games, home games, then away games again. The Orange has finally played some close games, games against tough competition and games of different styles.

It’s a stretch that’s yielded some losses, but also some memorable moments. And it continues Tuesday.

“We’re in the midst of a few short turnarounds and we’ve just got to keep our bodies warm, keep moving, stay healthy,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said, “and I think that’s the most important thing.”

When No. 24 Syracuse travels to Cincinnati on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff, it will be the Orange’s (18-3, 6-2 Big East) seventh game in the past three weeks. Every Saturday tip during the stretch has been followed by a quick turnaround on either Tuesday or Wednesday. On Tuesday against the Bearcats (8-13, 0-8), though, will be the first time a road game has followed a home tilt during the stretch.

The quick turnaround also provides a quick change of styles. Saturday’s opponent, Providence, is a team that likes to push the pace. Cincinnati, on the other hand, slows the game down. The Bearcats rank at the bottom of the Big East with 52.7 points per game and, despite being win-less in the conference, sit in the middle of the pack in scoring defense, allowing 58 points per game.

But none of that fazes SU. It just plays its style.

“We’re looking to do the same thing night in and night out. We’re looking to play Syracuse basketball,” guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas said. “We’re looking to push the tempo, get offensive rebounds, look high-low and run our scheme, so regardless if the team plays faster or slower, we’re still going to do stuff the same way, we still look at it like another game.”

For much of the season, the Orange has adjusted well. It has started slow at times, but has always found a way to pull out of its early game slumps. Both of the games Syracuse has lost during this recent stretch came against teams that received votes in The Associated Press Top 25 Poll. Those aren’t the games the Orange is worried about.

It’s the slow starts against Seton Hall and the Friars. Games in which SU should be in control throughout, but often doesn’t take over until the end of the first half.

“When we play down to the level of our competition, or we play to the level of Providence or any other team, we’re not being ourselves. It’s tough for us to play,” Tyson-Thomas said. “But when we bring Syracuse basketball to the table we do very good.”

Depth and defense have let the Orange play the way it wants.

Even with three players, including two rotation staples, sidelined against the Pirates, SU played 11 different players. Back at full strength against PC, Syracuse played 14 players. Nine played more than five minutes.

“We can put five in, five out any time on the floor and because we’ve been able to do that, that’s a really good team,” Tyson-Thomas said.

Syracuse held SHU to 34 points last week. The defense forced 27 turnovers against the Friars and grabbed 13 steals in the first half alone. Even the interior defense shined. SU center Kayla Alexander blocked four shots, accounting for more than half of the Orange’s six rejections.

“Defense played a big role in that, too,” Alexander said after Syracuse’s win against PC. “ … Defense momentum leads to offense, too.”

Cincinnati should provide the Orange a chance to do more of the same. The Bearcats’ lowly offense should be stifled even more against a stellar SU press. Syracuse’s deep bench should once again carry it during a rigorous stretch.

That is, as long as it controls the game.

Said Hillsman: “I’m really happy with where we are and we’ve got to continue just to build on this season and build on it before we go and get ready against Cincinnati.”

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