Sykes’ buzzer-beater leads Syracuse past Saint Joseph’s in gritty contest

first_img Published on December 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm Contact Phil: [email protected] | @PhilDAbb Among last season’s highlights for Syracuse was Brittney Sykes’ half-court desperation shot as the final buzzer sounded to beat St. John’s by three points.On Saturday afternoon, Sykes again proved her flair for the dramatic. The sophomore guard sank a layup as time expired as No. 23 Syracuse (11-1) topped Saint Joseph’s (9-2) 64-62 at the Carrier Dome before a crowd of 346.Head coach Quentin Hillsman took a timeout with 11 seconds left and the score knotted at 62. All game long he had run designed plays for Sykes to take the ball at the right elbow, where she either attacked the basket or earned a trip to the line – where she hit all eight free throws.With one final possession to decide the game, Hillsman called for the play one last time.“None of us wanted to go into overtime,” Sykes said in the postgame press conference. “Coach told me, ‘Go right and finish the play. Bring the game home for us.’AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“And that’s what I did for my team.”From the right elbow, Sykes dribbled to the hole past two defenders, avoided a last-second swat attempt and banked the shot in as the buzzer went off. The Orange bench exploded with joy and Sykes backpedaled to half court, pounding her chest.Sykes and fellow guard Brianna Butler didn’t leave the court once, each logging 40 minutes of playing time. Sykes finished with 20 points – her fourth consecutive performance of at least 20 – with nine rebounds, and Butler chipped in 15 points.It wasn’t a pretty beginning for Syracuse, as the Hawks scored eight unanswered points to open the game and held a 14-point lead at the 12:07 mark.But slowly, the Orange fought back. Behind by seven points with less than five minutes left in the half, SU knotted the score after a 3 by Isabella Slim and jumpers by Butler and Sykes.Freshman Briana Day’s layup at the 2:15 point put Syracuse ahead for the first time all afternoon, and Butler followed with a 3 to extend the lead.“Just gutsy,” Hillsman said in the postgame press conference. “Really, really gutsy game… For us to come out of this game with a win was about guts and about heart.”In the second half, though, the Hawks again came out firing. Saint Joseph’s connected on three 3s in the first three minutes of the frame – the Hawks shot 10-of-23 from downtown for the game – and built a lead as large as 10 points. Syracuse drew within one point on two occasions, but trailed entering the final stretch.A Rachel Coffey 3 finally sprung the Orange ahead with 3:32 remaining, but SJU’s Erin Shields responded with one of her seven 3s a minute later to knot the score at 60.Two Sykes free throws in the final minute gave SU a brief edge, but the Hawks’ Natasha Cloud answered by hitting a tough short jumper from the paint.That was the equalizer, but not for long.“We just wanted to get (Sykes) open,” Hillsman said. “She got to the rim and I was thinking, ‘Do not pass this ball.’ And she really made a strong move.“It was a tremendous, tremendous shot.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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