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No. 11 Orange squeezes past GW, avoids major collapse

No. 11 Syracuse found themselves up by double-digits, however the gritty play of George Washington put some pressure on the Orange to close the game. Alexis Peterson had a phenomenal game with clutch free-throws and a defensive play to seal the win.

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Estero, FL — The No. 11 Syracuse Orange will advance in the Gulf Coast Showcase with a 74-71 win over the George Washington Colonials behind senior guard Alexis Peterson’s 27 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Not far behind Peterson was senior guard Brittney Sykes with her second 20-point game, adding 21 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

“We have to continue to build, and we have to continue getting our young kids going,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “I give them a lot of credit for not having the experience on the floor. For being able to come in and pull games out.”

Syracuse grabbed the first points of the game, as Peterson got to the charity stripe and sunk four free throws for the Orange. Neither team hit a field goal until two minutes in when Sykes nailed a three-pointer for Syracuse.

Sykes followed with a layup, and the Orange held the Colonials scoreless for 30 more seconds of play. George Washington checked in by going on a 6-0 run over a three-minute span, and connected with two jumpers from junior forward Kelli Prange and one from senior forward Caira Washington.

Though the Colonials committed twice as many turnovers (16) as the Orange (8), George Washington held Syracuse to a low 22 percent efficiency from the field, compared to their 50 percent shooting. With a strong shooting performance, the Colonials ended the quarter with an 18-17 lead. Peterson led all scorers with nine points and two rebounds.

Back-to-back three-pointers from the Orange increased Syracuse’s lead to four in the first minute of the second quarter. The Orange proceeded onto an 11-1 run, taking a 31-20 lead five minutes into the second period. The Colonials connected on a layup by Washington; however, George Washington committed five turnovers in four and a half minutes, allowing Syracuse to remain dominant.

The Orange increased their run to 18-3 by the three-minute mark, holding a 35-22 advantage. George Washington committed a total of 13 turnovers in the half compared to Syracuse’s two, and the Orange closed the first 20 minutes of play with a 43-26 lead. Sykes led all scorers with 15 points and one rebound, followed by 14 points and three rebounds from Peterson.

“I was knocking down shots early, so to anyone that boosts your confidence,” Sykes said. “The rim gets wider. So I was just trying to move the ball but at the same time stay aggressive.”

The Colonials put up the first points this time around, as Prange layed the ball in for a quick second half start. Syracuse remained dominant, and a steal and a layup by Sykes gave the Orange a 17-point lead with four and a half minutes remaining in the third period. But with plenty of time left on the clock, the Colonials continued to chip away at the Orange’s lead, as Washington hit 4-of-4 to cut the deficit to 10 late in the quarter.

Though the Colonials outshot the Orange from the field 42 percent to 37 percent once again, and from beyond the arc 44 percent to 36 percent, Syracuse held a 61-50 lead heading into the final quarter. Sykes continued to lead all scorers with 21 points and four rebounds.

“GW did a really good job of making plays down the stretch,” Hillsman said. “We had a few times where we should have made a few shots in the paint but give them credit; they got themselves back in the game.”

Syracuse started the final 10 minutes strong, with a swift layup by Peterson. However, George Washington cut the lead to eight points for a more closely contested final quarter of the game. The Colonials held the Orange to a two and a half minute scoring drought, where Syracuse went 0-for-6 from the field, before senior center Briana Day connected on a reverse layup.

In a nail-biting final 30 seconds of the game, Syracuse squeezed away with a 74-71 lead, behind Peterson’s 27 points, four rebounds, and seven assists.

“She just does such a great job of handling the pressure,” Sykes said on Peterson. “Just being that leader with the ball, she has the ball most of the time on the floor, and that’s a lot of stress given to one player to distribute the ball.

“We just tried to stay as calm as possible,” Sykes said. “They were hitting a lot of shots late at the end, they had a lot of good looks, they were just knocking them down, so we had to just lock in as a team and not get so rattled.”

Up next, the Syracuse Orange will play the Ohio State Buckeyes in Game 8 tomorrow at 7:30 pm ET.

“We’re here to play the best teams, that’s why we came to this tournament,” Hillsman said. “They’re (Ohio State) definitely at least a top-five team in the country. So we look forward to competing tomorrow.”