SYRACUSE, N.Y. --If there was any doubt that the Syracuse Women’s basketball team would struggle from behind the arc without Brianna Butler this season, the women put that to rest in its season opener against Rhode Island.
The 14th ranked Orange women (1-0) defeated Rhode Island (0-1), 95-49, behind 17 made 3-pointers – a school record – on Friday at the Carrier Dome.
“17-for-45, I’ll take that every game for sure,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said.
It was clear early on that Hillsman has a lot of confidence in his shooters.
“Coach Q has a lot of confidence in us in shooting the ball,” guard Alexis Peterson said. “And he tells us to shoot the ball when we’re open and that’s what we’re going to do, and that’s how we play. We’re going to play fast, we’re going to get out in transition and we’re going to shoot threes.”
After starting the game hot from the field with six three pointers, Syracuse offense went cold in the second quarter, only hitting two 3-pointers, one of which came from Isabella Slim and Peterson. Peterson carried the Orange in the quarter, scoring eight of the Orange’s 11 points. She finished with a game-high 28 points.
Briana Day had a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and her teammate Brittney Sykes also went four a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds. In freshman guard, Gabby Cooper’s debut, she went 4-18 from the 3-point line and finished with 12 points.
While Syracuse’s success from three was key for the Orange women, the biggest contributor to their win came from the defensive end. Syracuse forced a school-record 43 turnovers, and wore down a Rhode Island offense that could never really get going.
“At halftime coach talked about how many turnovers we had forced, so we just wanted to come out in the second half and really build on that and keep forcing them into turnovers, keep speeding them up, making them uncomfortable,” Peterson said. “And 43 turnovers, that’s a great, great number for us and that’s something that we strive for.”
They were faster, scrappier and more aggressive than Rhode Island.
“We talk about being an orange collar team, a teams that’s going to play tough,” Hillsman said. “We want our style to be a style that people recognize as a tough, aggressive style of play. We call it orange collar, just playing the way that we play and playing tough, playing aggressive, getting up and down the floor, being physical.”
Although the Orange played at a faster, aggressive pace throughout the game, they were able to increase their tempo in the fourth quarter to pull away. Syracuse outscored Rhode Island 39-11 in the last quarter.
“It’s also something that just translates from practice. There’s times in practice when we may be extremely tired, we may be running a lot, it may be a long practice but we have to find a way to have energy or we’ll run,” Peterson said. “So it’s just something that we’re used to doing. So when it comes to the game it’s like second nature.
"We know we can overpower a team with our energy, our effort, our willingness to compete when we’re tired.”