#11 Florida State (14-2, 2-1 ACC) loses 76-69 at Syracuse (14-3, 2-2 ACC).
Overall, Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman has his team headed in the right direction. They caught lightning in a bottle two years ago when they reached the title game against UConn. Hillsman focused on using that success to raise the profile of the program and he has largely succeeded. He brought in a top 15 class in 2017 with three top 100 players and in 2018 he has a top 10 class arriving featuring two top 11 players.
The more things change the more they stay the same. That is certainly true for the Syracuse Orange. The Orange have almost completely turned over their roster this year. Of their top 10 scorers from last year only Gabby Cooper returns. Even though the cast has changed, the play remains the same. The Orange will use pressure the entire game and shoot lots and lots of threes.
They are led by point guard Tiana Mangakahia who is a JUCO transfer originally from Australia. Mangakahia is a 23 year old sophomore who leads the nation in assists with 10.3 per game. She also leads the team in scoring at 18.6 per game. She is coming off of a 44 point explosion against Georgia Tech. Miranda Drummond is second on the team with 16.2 points a game and she leads the team in three point shooting at .387. Inside they are led by 6’2 Digna Strautmane, a freshman from Latvia. Strautmane leads the team in rebounding at 7.4 per game.
The game got off to an even start as the two teams mostly traded baskets for the first few minutes. However, the Orange used some hot shooting to hit the Noles with a 15-2 run to take a 21-8 lead with a little less than three minutes left in the quarter. FSU responded with a quick 8-2 run to close the deficit to 23-16 at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter FSU continued to fight back and eventually managed to take a 33-31 lead on a Nausia Woolfolk three ball. Drummond came back and hit a triple at the buzzer to give the Orange a 34-33 lead going into halftime.
In the third quarter the lead kept changing hands as neither team could go on a serious run. FSU ended the quarter with a 51-50 lead thanks to a jumper from Imani Wright.
The fourth quarter started out like the third quarter with both teams trading baskets. Unfortunately for the Noles they lost their shooting touch in the fourth. The Seminoles went five and a half minutes without a made field goal. This stretch allowed the Orange to take a 66-57 lead. AJ Alix broke the spell with a triple to pull FSU within six but Drummond immediately responded with a three of her own to give SU a nine point lead with two minutes left in the game. From there the Noles couldn’t mount a comeback and lost by the 76-69 score.
Imani Wright came back from her illness to pace the Noles with 20 points. Shakayla Thomas and AJ Alix were the only other Seminoles in double figures with 12 points each. Ama Degbeon had a strong game on the boards with 12 rebounds.
The Noles simply had no answer for Miranda Drummond. The 6’1 junior had a career high 38 points on 8-13 shooting from deep. She was the only SU player in double figures. However, Tiana Mangakahia did have 13 assists.
FSU came into the game as the second best free throw shooting team in the ACC at 75%. They shot 40% (8-20) in this game. They also struggled from three at 28% (7-25). Therefore even though they had a decisive edge in rebounding (49-37) they couldn’t convert the extra shots into points at a fast enough rate.
The bottom line is that the Noles can’t afford to go into the tank for five and a half minutes in the final quarter of a game on the road against a tough opponent and expect to win. They were fine until that stretch but it’s hard to overcome that kind of cold spell. In any case Syracuse is always a tough place to play for FSU. They last won there in 2014.
The Noles will welcome the Miami Hurricanes (11-5, 1-2 ACC) to Tallahassee on Thursday, Jan. 11th at 7pm. The game will be broadcast on Fox Sports. The Canes lost today at home to Wake Forest 61-50.