Before Saturday’s first round game against ninth-seeded Iowa State (18-13) , eight-seeded Syracuse (22-10) freshman Gabby Cooper shot a mere 26% from three all season.
On Saturday, she drilled a program NCAAW tournament record eight 3-pointers as the Orange went on to win 85-65. The Orange will play top-seeded UConn – a rematch of last year’s national championship game – in the second round on Monday night.
Syracuse jumped all over Iowa State during the start of the game, thanks to five deep by Cooper in the first quarter.
“We knew we had to come out from the jump, like give them no hope,” Cooper said on ESPN after the game. “We couldn’t play around, try to come back at the end. We wanted to put it away early.”
The Orange did just that. Syracuse opened to a 15-3 lead early in the opening quarter – all points coming from behind the arc. Syracuse ‘s hot shooting continued throughout the first half. They shot 10-20 from behind the arc, while the Cyclones went 4-13.
When Cooper cooled off in the first half, redshirt senior Brittney Sykes carried the Orange’s offense in the second quarter. She scored a game-high 28 points, while her backcourt mate Alexis Peterson finished with 25 points.
Despite Iowa State’s ability to outscore Syracuse 16-12 in the second quarter, the Cyclones were only able to pull within 45-24 lead at the break. The problem was Syracuse held a 33-8 advantage after the first quarter and the Cyclones had to play catch up the rest of the way.
Both teams struggled to hit shots at the start of the third quarter but every time Iowa State tried to chip away at the lead, Syracuse continued to respond to any attempt the Cyclones made at a comeback. Peterson, who had a quiet first half led the Orange with 19 second-half points.
Syracuse finished 15-29 from behind the arc (51%) – a stat that will be key for the Orange as they try to take down the Huskies. Another key competent in Syracuse’s first round win was its ability to pressure the Cyclones in the full court. Syracuse forced Iowa State into 18 turnovers with its tenacious defense.
It will be a tough ask to stop UConn, but Syracuse will have to pull out all the stops to contain the Huskies with their defense and then convert on the offensive end.