Women's Basketball

Observations from Syracuse’s dominant season-opening win

Corey Henry | Senior Staff Photgrapher

Teisha Hyman led SU with the highest efficiency of any Orange player on Wednesday night. Syracuse won 87-47 over Monmouth.

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Multiple players from Syracuse said it had a lot to prove this season. After being picked to finish 12th and 13th in the Atlantic Coast Conference in preseason polls, the Orange felt overlooked and underappreciated. Wednesday night’s game against Monmouth was all but over at the end of the third quarter, as SU ballooned its lead out to 29.

While Syracuse proved no aura with its opening night win against the Hawks, it used the 40 minutes together on the court to gel, something acting head coach Vonn Read said the team needed more time to do with seven transfers and two freshmen. After a rough shooting start to the night, the Orange settled in, and every Syracuse player listed to play Wednesday night scored, giving Read his first win as a head coach in his career.

Here are five observations from SU’s 87-46 win over Monmouth:

Teisha Hyman makes her return, again

Hyman has had terrible injury luck, specifically with ACL tears. This season marks her return from a second ACL tear, and Hyman went down hard in the second quarter. But during the first quarter, she stole a Monmouth pass out of the air for one of her four steals and handed the ball off to Chrislyn Carr in transition, leading to a bucket. She notched another steal early in the third quarter, this one via a loose ball, and was once again the catalyst for a layup from Chrislyn.


Hyman was one of three SU players with three assists, and despite being just 5-foot-8, led the team with nine rebounds, six of which came while on defense. Her play led to her having the highest efficiency of any player Wednesday night.

“Chaotic” play turns into defense

Najé Murray and Alaysia Styles acknowledged that Syracuse can outrun any team and shoot the lights out of the Carrier Dome on a good night, but the defense was its weakness. Despite this, Wednesday night proved that fast basketball combined with a 2-3 zone can lock down an opponent — even if it is against a rebuilding Monmouth team. Syracuse began Wednesday night in the famed Jim Boeheim 2-3 zone, locking down the Hawks to the tune of 16% shooting in the first quarter from the field.

“Chaotic,” but structured, as Styles put it, turned into 33 Monmouth turnovers, 10 of which came in the second quarter. Syracuse forced a turnover on three consecutive plays as the final two minutes ticked off in the first half. Murray grabbed an errant pass that translated to a 3. Then SU had two straight long passes to Chrislyn. Syracuse ended up with 21 turnovers, with some simply appearing like a team playing its first game together.

To begin the fourth quarter, Syracuse went to a more structured zone. It was clear that the team had settled into Wednesday’s game and easily tracked the ball, shifting in unison as the Hawks tried to find an opening near the basket. They ended up with a shot clock violation. Minutes later Nyah Wilson returned to the chaotic play, jabbing away a pass at the top of the key, a steal that led to a wide-open layup.

Alaina Rice makes her presence known

Alaina Rice scored her first points for Syracuse on the first of two free throws. But that basketball was the tamest bucket she got on Wednesday night. Rice immediately made her presence known when she forced a jump ball shortly after subbing into the game. She swatted the ball away from a Monmouth player in the corner and dove on it as it hit the ground.

Styles defined the mix of personalities for Syracuse as “really chaotic.” She’s a listener, so she sits back during team-building activities like laser tag and observes the “absolutely obnoxious” but fun group of women. Rice took that chaotic approach to heart. Early in the second quarter, Rice stole away a pass from the Monmouth frontcourt but missed the ensuing layup attempt on the fast break. She was able to regain the rebound and pass out to Jayla Thornton, who promptly went up to make a mid-range shot.

Alaysia Styles established as SU center

Dating back to Read’s opening press conference, the word around Syracuse’s basketball team has been its lack of height. Styles, one of the two listed forwards on Syracuse’s roster, said that at previous schools, both she and Eboni Walker played out wide. This season will be their first playing inside more, which has been an adjustment for Styles. But in the first quarter, Walker was once again outside, as she scanned the court for her next move from the top of the key. Styles stood crouched underneath the basket with her right arm in the air, hoarding off her defender. The ensuing pass inside led to an open layup for Styles.

Two-and-a-half minutes into the first quarter, Styles executed a give-and-go with Christianna Carr at the top of the key and weaved her way into Syracuse’s first points of the season. The play was indicative of what Styles called Syracuse’s “fast” identity that the team has created in preseason practices and scrimmages. Read said that the Orange won’t play with a traditional post where they’d throw into a big man, but Styles found herself looking up toward the hoop more often than she’s previously done in her career.

Speed kills

Before Wednesday’s game, Read said Syracuse would run a spread-out offense, one that allows it to utilize its speed and mitigate the obstacle of a lack of height that could hurt its growth this season. With players like Chrislyn, who’s known for her baseline-to-baseline speed, Syracuse easily found success in transition and dominated fastbreak opportunities. Monmouth is similar to SU in its goal of utilizing speed in fastbreak play, but the Orange’s speed burst through Wednesday night.

The two straight layups from Christianna were kickstarted when the Orange got possession and Christianna bolted down the nearside to become open for the outlet pass. Even Hyman, who is coming off her second ACL tear and had to exit the game in the second quarter, stole a pass during the third quarter and sprinted down the court to drain a mid-range jump shot. She followed that up to two plays later with another fastbreak opportunity, assisting Chrislyn on a basket.

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