WBB : Orange cruises through WNIT despite extended time on road

first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ It worked out exactly how Quentin Hillsman wanted it to.After the Syracuse head coach learned his team would be playing in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on March 12, Hillsman hoped the Orange would play all of its games on the road, away from the distractions of home.‘I was hoping that it wouldn’t backfire on us because I knew that we could go out and it could go either way,’ Hillsman said, ‘but to their credit they embraced it, and I think that being on the road has made us a stronger basketball team.’The Orange (22-14) began its road journey in the first round of the WNIT in Hartford, Conn., and the trip has worked out perfectly thus far for Hillsman and his players. SU has survived four elimination games in nine days to advance to the WNIT semifinals, in which it will take on James Madison (28-7) in Harrisonburg, Va., at 7 p.m. Wednesday.It was the first time in 22 years Syracuse captured four consecutive road victories, dating back to the 1990-91 season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange opened the tournament with a 59-42 win at Hartford on March 16. Three days later, Syracuse trounced Drexel 65-43 and emerged victorious again in Philadelphia last Thursday with an 82-68 win over Temple.Syracuse’s players and staff then traveled to Toledo, Ohio, last Friday. They had less than a day to prepare for their matchup with the Rockets.‘It was just more so us being mentally focused and coach Q just letting us know this is a business,’ forward Iasia Hemingway said. ”You know we’re going to be traveling a lot, but just stay focused, and I know you’re all tired, but don’t give up because we are a good team and we’re playing well and we don’t want to come up short.”Trailing by five with 2:10 remaining in the second half, a newfound unity and resiliency surfaced to carry the Orange to victory. First, Syracuse point guard Rachel Coffey hit a fadeaway 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left to send the game into overtime.And in the extra session, with SU’s two centers off the court due to foul trouble, reserve forward Troya Berry nailed what proved to be the game-winning free throw.‘With Rachel hitting that big shot, we were like, ‘Let’s just take this home,” Hemingway said. ‘That 3 was meant for a reason. It was meant for us to win for a reason and everything happens for a reason, so fortunately we got the win.’The road trip also led to a change in Hillsman’s coaching style. The SU head coach said he has learned to not overanalyze certain situations and to loosen the reins on his players to a degree, allowing them ‘to do their thing’ and to save their legs.The road also enabled the coaches to break down film with the players without any disturbance, as they had nowhere else to be.After Saturday’s win over Toledo, Syracuse returned home before getting ready to leave for Virginia.Now, only two games stand in the path of the Orange capturing the WNIT crown.‘When you’re out for that long period of time and you’re in the environments that we’ve been in, you have to band together and lean on each other,’ Hillsman said. ‘Secondly, because they’re playing so well they have the confidence in each other.’The next chapter of Syracuse’s tournament run leads the Orange to the JMU Convocation Center, a hostile environment that Hillsman deemed ‘eerie’ because the band sits right over the court.But if SU has proven anything in the WNIT, it’s that it embraces challenges. If the Orange can stretch its road winning streak to five, just one obstacle stands in its way of earning the tournament title.‘We just know that we need to come out strong and do the same things that we do at home,’ SU guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas said. ‘We’re not reluctant to be playing on the road at all, so we’re just looking forward to it.’adtredin@syr.educenter_img Published on March 27, 2012 at 12:00 pmlast_img

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