WBB : Hillsman thinks SU passes tournament ‘eye test’ after win

first_img Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Quentin Hillsman called it keeping the bid alive. Syracuse needed a win Saturday against St. John’s to keep its chance of reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time in three years afloat.‘We knew how important to win this game was just to keep our NCAA tournament bid alive,’ SU head coach Hillsman said in a phone interview after the game. ‘And we wanted to come out and play tough and win the basketball game.’His team did just that.Whereas last year’s team struggled in the closing moments of tight games, this year’s Orange (19-7, 7-6 Big East) shined in the final minutes of a 78-67 win over St. John’s (18-8, 7-6). Syracuse scored on nine of its final 10 possessions to pull away from the Red Storm after trailing most of the game. And once again, SU’s interior game got the job done.Kayla Alexander and Iasia Hemingway led the way for Syracuse with 26 and 13 points, respectively. The orchestrators of Hillsman’s high-low attack combined for 12 points in the final six minutes alone.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text‘We just took good shots,’ Hillsman said of the shot selection late in the game. ‘We knew we had a big advantage getting the ball inside. So we really did a good job of getting the ball in the paint. It was a very unselfish game by Tasha (Harris) and Erica (Morrow) and Elashier (Hall) to really throw the ball inside.’The Orange jumped out to a 10-0 lead early over the Red Storm and carried over momentum from Wednesday’s big home win against Louisville.But after that opening surge, St. John’s responded. At the 13:11 mark of the first half, the Red Storm tied the game at 14 and took the lead on its next possession. From that point, the Orange trailed until the final five minutes of the game.What allowed Syracuse to climb back was a dominant rebounding performance. Syracuse more than doubled the rebounding total of St. John’s, holding a 44-21 advantage. Alexander and Hemingway combined for 14 of those. In all, four SU players had at least five rebounds.‘There’s no question we did a very good job on the glass,’ Hillsman said. ‘We really rebounded the ball well. Every time they took a shot, we were there to get a good box out.’This was especially true down the stretch. St. John’s tallied its final offensive rebound with 7:28 remaining. After that, it was one and done each time down the floor.‘We knew that if we could hold them to one shot instead of multiple shots that we would have a good chance to win the game,’ Hillsman said.This game highlighted an important difference between this year’s and last year’s team. Before the season started, Hillsman said last year’s team was only a few possessions away from making the NCAA tournament and being ranked in the preseason polls. A couple of more intelligent decisions, and they would have been there.A year older and wiser, this team seems to have learned how to play in close games. So far, Syracuse has three conference wins by 10 points or less. And it won Saturday’s game by 11.‘It was about five to 10 possessions that really changed our season,’ Hillsman said at the team’s annual media day in October. ‘So we need to pay attention to the details and really do some things that will have us play better basketball down the stretch and really close games out.’With the win, the Orange has a good chance to finish the regular season with a 9-7 record in conference play. Three games remain for SU, two of which are probable wins over Cincinnati and Providence. A game at Connecticut follows before the Big East tournament.At this point in time, Hillsman thinks his team passes the ‘eye test’ to get into the tournament. But he can’t be positive. After all, he’s seen Big East teams with a similar record get snubbed in the past.‘It’s tough because I’ve seen 9-7 teams not get in,’ he said. ‘Honestly, I think that we’re plenty worthy of it. We have some very good wins. We have some very good wins against some top 50 teams. And we’re finishing the season strong so far.’[email protected]center_img Published on February 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13last_img