INDIANAPOLIS — The Syracuse and Washington women’s basketball teams have faced each other only one time.
Who knew in November that Syracuse’s 66-62 win in the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout in Las Vegas would be a preview of their second matchup in the same season?
This one, Sunday’s 8:30 p.m. (ET) national semifinal matchup at Bankers Life Fieldhouse to be broadcast on ESPN2, has much more at stake, with the winner playing Tuesday for the national title.
The territory is new to both programs, with both making their first Final Four appearances. Syracuse (29-7) outscored Washington 13-4 on turnovers in the first meeting, with the Orange press coming up with 19 takeaways.
Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman is looking for more of the same from his defense
“If we’re making shots, we’re able to get into our pressure,” Hillsman said yesterday. “If we’re not able to speed the game up and play fast, it’s not going to have any effect on the game at all.”
The fourth-seeded Orange knows it will have to slow down Washington junior guard Kelsey Plum, who averages 26.2 points.
“She’s a great player,” said Syracuse senior guard Brianna Butler, who scored 17 in the first meeting. “She’s been doing a phenomenal job carrying her team. But we just have to do what we do and just contain her and try and do the best we can to stop her.”
Syracuse did a decent job of that last time, holding Plum to 19 points and 6-for-15 shooting to go with eight turnovers.
“We tried to come out and put pressure on her, not give her anything easy,” said junior Alexis Peterson, who averages a team-high 16.1 points for the Orange.
Washington coach Mike Neighbors said the key for his team will be how well the sseventh-seeded Huskies (26-10) adjust to the zone-press defenses they’ll face.
“The hardest thing is simulating it,” Neighbors said. “We can’t simulate without our guys’ practice team here. The challenge is adjusting in the game. About the time you adjust, so does [Hillsman]. Every time you make an adjustment and figure something out, he’s got a counterpunch.”