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Syracuse women beat Albany, reach NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

Syracuse' s Isabella Slim, right, and teammate

Syracuse' s Isabella Slim, right, and teammate Brittney Sykes, center, puts pressure on Albany 's Imani Tate, left, in the fourth quarter of a second round women' s college basketball game in the NCAA Tournament in Syracuse, N.Y., Sunday, March 20, 2016. Credit: AP / Nick Lisi

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Brittney Sykes scored nine of her 24 points during a third-quarter surge in leading Syracuse to a 76-59 win over Albany in the second round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Fourth-seeded Syracuse (27-7) advanced to the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight tournament appearances and also set a school record for victories. Alexis Peterson scored 22 for the Orange, who will play either top-seeded South Carolina or Kansas State in the Sioux Falls Regional on Friday.

The 12th-seeded Great Danes (28-5) were unable to pull off a second consecutive upset after they rallied from 11 points in the fourth quarter to knock off Florida on Friday. Shereesha Richards scored 23 points to close her record-breaking career at Albany, where the three-time America East player of the year became the program’s first Division I All-American and career leading scorer.

Down 11-6, Maggie Morrison hit consecutive contested 3-point baskets 30 seconds apart in putting the Orange ahead for good late in the first quarter.

With Albany showing resolve by cutting Syracuse’s lead to 40-33 at halftime, the Orange finally pulled away to open the second.

Sykes led the way scoring Syracuse’s first seven points of the third quarter in helping the Orange build a 47-35 lead. The junior guard then helped cap a 10-1 run by grabbing an offensive rebound and setting up a wide-open Maggie Morrison for a 3-point basket to put the Orange up 59-41 with 54 seconds left in the third quarter.

Albany had a solid first half in which it consistently broke the Orange’s press, and also managed to work the ball down low to Richards. Forward Heather Forster also had a strong performance in pulling down three offensive rebounds in the first half.

Albany also scored another advantage 1:59 in, when Syracuse starting center Briana Day headed to the bench after picking up her second foul — both on Richards.

With Albany trailing 35-24 with 3:42 left, Forster scored seven of the Great Danes nine points to close the half.

The Great Danes, however, struggled in matching the Orange’s superior depth. Guard Erin Coughlin the final 3:51 of the second quarter after picking up her third foul. And coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson had no choice but to keep forward Tiana-Jo Carter in the game, before she fouled out with 6:43 left.

Syracuse scored 20 points off of 23 Albany turnovers.

Orange coach Quentin Hillsman failed to live up to his projection of having Syracuse attempt 50 3-point shots if Albany used a zone defense against them. Syracuse attempted just 27 3-point baskets and made eight of them.

New York Sports