Women's Basketball

Butler looks to mend shooting woes against Cornell

/ The Daily Orange

Brianna Butler is shooting just 12.5 percent from 3-point range through two games this season. She'll look to improve when SU hosts Cornell on Monday.

Quentin Hillsman threw his hands up in the air and looked upward, as if to thank the basketball gods for what he just witnessed.

A shot by Brianna Butler had gone in.

“I have great confidence in her,” the SU head coach said. “She is a shooter and I just hope that people look at the stat sheet and don’t guard her because one of these games they’re not going to guard her and she’s going to have like 30

“I have no problem with her shooting.”

The sophomore guard is averaging eight points per game through Syracuse’s first two match ups, but it hasn’t been pretty. After leading the Orange with 53 3-pointers as a freshman a season ago, Butler has yet to find her shooting stroke this year — evidenced by her 22.2-percent clip from the field, and 12.5-percent rate from deep.

Fortunately for her, the Orange’s (2-0) depth has been able to overcome her funk and has found other methods of scoring, while Butler has pitched in to SU’s early success through other categories. She’ll look to regain her shooting touch Monday when Syracuse takes on Cornell (2-0) in the Carrier Dome at 4:30 p.m.

To this point, Butler has converted on just 6-of-27 shots from the field, including a meager 2-of-16 from beyond the arc. But after hitting a couple of second-half buckets against Dartmouth on Thursday, she has hope that a breakout game is on the way.

“Missing shots for anyone is not a great thing, but the fact that I started making them in the second half was helping with my confidence,” she said. “But I’m going to knock down shots.

“I’m just happy it was a collective effort.”

On Thursday night, the Orange played all 14 eligible players on its roster. As its energetic full-court press created easy fast-break opportunities, Hillsman emptied his bench to keep his starting lineup well rested.

Although Butler’s shots aren’t falling as often as she’d like, Syracuse’s bench has outweighed her ineffectiveness, totaling 30 points on Thursday night.

“I believe a team with depth is really hard to beat,” SU guard Brittney Sykes said, “because once somebody else runs out of gas, you bring in somebody else that does the same thing.”

At Washington State on Nov. 10, Butler’s 16-shot attempts were more than anyone else on the team, but she made just three and finished with seven points.

By halftime on Thursday night, Butler misfired on her first six shots. She had a handful of open looks from the wings, but couldn’t connect.

After her first 3-pointer of the second half fell way short of the rim, she became more choosy with her shots. Hillsman wanted Butler to shoot her way out of the slump.

“I’m mad. I think she should have taken probably 13 or 14 3s this game,” Hillsman said. “I thought she passed up five or six shots that she was just open on.”

She instead became a facilitator, while selectively taking her four second-half shots.

Butler dished out assists on back-to-back possessions in the second half. When Sykes missed a transition layup, Butler grabbed the offensive rebound, dribbled out to the block and sank the mid-range jumper. She also earned a trip to the free-throw line, where she knocked down both of her attempts.

But it was two and a half minutes later that she sent Hillsman into celebration. From the right wing, Butler dribbled to her left, came off a ball screen at the top and drained the 3.

In his postgame press conference, Hillsman vouched his confidence that it won’t be long until the Orange’s sharpshooters — Butler and guard Isabella Slim — give him a better reason for throwing his hands upward.

“They’re going to get it going,” Hillsman said. “They’re going to make shots. They’re getting open looks. They’ve just got to knock them down, and the more we play, the better they’re going to be.”

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