Syracuse guard Alexis Peterson scored a career-high 45 points as the Orange rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat No.23 North Carolina State on Thursday.
“Sometimes, you have to have a player come in and be amazing and that’s what she was,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said.
Syracuse's (13-5) dominant defense was absent for much of the first half, allowing the Wolfpack (13-5) to comfortably shoot pull-up jumpers and make easy baskets around the rim. NC State made it look easy, shooting 60% from the field and 53.8% from behind the arc in the first half.
Despite the Wolfpack’s strong first half, it wasn’t a matter of if, but when Syracuse’s “Orange Collar” defense would show up.
“At halftime we talked about how there were really no adjustments to make in this game,” Hillsman said. “It was more about our defensive effort, and just playing hard every possession.”
Trailing by 12 at the break, Coach Q implemented a full-court press to slow down the Wolfpack’s offense. Syracuse stormed out the gate with a 3-point play by Briana Day (7 points) and a lay-up by Britney Sykes (17 points) off a forced turnover to pull within seven.
Despite Syracuse’s ability to tie the game at 54 with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter, the Wolfpack responded with an 8-0 run to end the quarter, capped by a half-court heave from Kaila Ealey.
Entering the final frame, coach Q pleaded to his team: “I said to them ‘either we pick up our intensity and our pressure on defense or we lose this game.’” And Syracuse responded with a 13-0 run, capped by a 3-pointer by Peterson that gave the Orange the lead for good with 6:33 left to play.
“I got to give Syracuse a lot of credit,” NC State coach Wes Moore said. “Their press and their aggression finally caught up to us. Obviously, we kind of survived the third quarter. But the fourth period we really kind of had trouble getting shots, getting looks.”
The Orange will travel to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech on Sunday. Tip off is set for 1 p.m.