Women's Basketball

Sykes establishes 3-point shot, adds new dimension to offensive game

After Syracuse’s win over Virginia on Sunday, Brianna Butler said one of the keys to Syracuse’s dynamic offense is her ability to serve primarily as a shooter and Brittney Sykes as a driver.

Based on numbers alone, it was a pretty fair assessment of Syracuse’s top two scorers, but one that Sykes took exception to. After Butler was done talking, Sykes looked over at her and asked accusingly, “I’m a scorer?”

It was more a jest to a good friend and teammate than anything else — but it was also rooted in seriousness.

“It’s a joke,” Sykes said. “But it’s not a joke. I have worked on my outside shot during the summer and I feel like I’m showing that I can hit the outside jumper and step out to the 3 and hit a few of those.”

Sykes came into last weekend’s games having hit only one 3-pointer all season. She hit two over the past two games, and said she’s been looking to shoot from the outside more because, like Butler, other teams consider her a driver.

On Thursday night, she’ll have the chance to prove another team wrong when the Orange (15-5, 4-3 Atlantic Coast) travel to No. 6 North Carolina (17-3, 5-1) for a 7 p.m. tip.

“I don’t want her to rely solely on 3-point shot or the drive,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “She needs to have balance. As long as she’s taking good (3-pointers) in the flow of the offense, we’re OK with that.”

At University (N.J.) High School, Sykes was a prolific scorer, averaging 18.9 points per game as a senior. Yet the McDonald’s All-American said that it took her until after her freshman year at Syracuse to realize that she needed to diversify her offensive repertoire.

So she spent all of last summer in the gym working on her game, specifically her outside shot.

“I learned that I have to be an all-around threat and that teams are going to play me more for me putting the ball on the floor,” Sykes said. “So if that means putting the ball up for a shot, then that’s what I have to do.”

Sykes hopes this makes her more of a versatile scoring threat. She knows she’s still primarily a driver though and credits the fact that there are so many shooters on the floor that give her driving lanes.

Whenever a play is drawn up for her to take it to the dish, she looks to get near Butler because she knows the defense won’t collapse in on her at the risk of leaving Butler open.

And if it does, Sykes is fine with kicking it out for an assist.

“She’s able to step up for the team,” Butler said. “And that’s what we need, players to step up.”

On Sunday, Sykes stepped up to the tune of a career-high 27 points. Most of those points came from the paint, but the 3-point shooting threat has started to take shape.

“It’s a new season and it’s a new year, teams are going to want to see if I can hit the shot consistently,” Sykes said. “If they’re leaving me open for the 3, I have to be able to knock it down so they can respect it.”

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