Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Defense leads Orange to first final

INDIANAPOLIS — Alexis Peterson had 18 points and Brittney Sykes scored 17 to help Syracuse roll past Washington 80-59 in the Final Four on Sunday and into the program's first women's national championship game.

The Orange (30-7) face three-time defending champion Connecticut on Tuesday. The Huskies set a semifinal round record with a 29-point victory over Pac-12 champion Oregon State in the early game.

Syracuse, in its Final Four debut, made it look almost as easy.

Washington (26-11) was led by Talia Walton, who had 29 points and made a Final Four record eight 3-pointers. The previous record of six was done twice.

But Syracuse rode its defense and took a 23-12 lead after one quarter, extended the lead to 39-20 midway through the second quarter and never let the Huskies get within single digits again.

"Our players just did what we asked them to do," Orange coach Quentin Hillsman said. "They competed at a high level, and we were able to speed them up a couple of times when we really needed to."

The story line looked awfully familiar.

In their first meeting this season, Syracuse built a 21-point lead before Washington rallied to within one. The Orange held on for a 66-62 victory.

When Washington cut the halftime deficit to 43-31, Peterson hit a 3 to start a 9-4 spurt that made it 52-35. When the Huskies got within 11, Syracuse used a 15-2 run to make it 67-43. And when Washington closed to 72-59 midway through the fourth, Sykes and Brianna Butler made back-to-back 3s to seal it.

"I don't think they did anything they haven't been doing for the last month," Huskies coach Mike Neighbors said. "When they stretch you and spread you, then we can't rebound."

Now the Orange will try to prevent former Big East foe UConn from an unprecedented fourth straight women's title.

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