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Kiara Lewis leads Syracuse past Ohio, 66-54, in season-opener

first_img Published on November 5, 2019 at 10:12 pm Contact Danny: [email protected] | @DannyEmerman Facebook Twitter Google+ Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman had seen enough of his starting point guard initiating the offense hesitantly, throwing risky passes and searching for her shot too tentatively.So when junior Kiara Lewis found herself wide open but elected to pull the ball out instead of shooting a 3-pointer, Hillsman called timeout. He met her in front of the scorer’s table. “I told Kiki just be aggressive — she’s open, she’s gotta shoot the ball,” Hillsman said. “We want her to be aggressive and play the way she can play.” When Hillsman called that timeout, SU trailed 24-15. Lewis had more turnovers (three) than points (two). After discussing her play with Hillsman, though, Lewis changed her approach and led SU on a 16-6 run to end the quarter and take a lead into halftime. Lewis continued her aggressive play for the rest of the game, controlling the tempo and providing No. 21 Syracuse (1-0) with a team-high 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in a 66-54 season-opening win over Ohio (0-1). “We started off a little slow,” Lewis said, “And part of it starts with me just because I have the ball more.” AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThroughout the game, most of SU’s half-court sets consisted of running Lewis through on-ball screens, allowing her to drive and either create for herself or kick out to shooters on the perimeter. Ohio’s defense countered this by packing the paint, preventing SU bigs from diving through the middle for easy layups.This worked at first, as Lewis often forced passes into rolling bigs who were swarmed. But Lewis adjusted by recognizing when the defense was collapsed into the paint and then kicking out to shooters. Senior guard Gabrielle Cooper (10 points) was often the beneficiary. Once SU started making outside shots, Ohio had to close out harder to shooters, opening up the floor more for Lewis. center_img Amy Nakamura | Co-Digital Editor“She just started to attack downhill, and that was the difference in the game,” Hillsman said.After trailing 20-10 after the first quarter, freshman Taleah Washington capped off the 10-point first half comeback with a fadeaway, buzzer-beating three from the corner. With less than two seconds remaining, Washington collected an offensive rebound near the paint, retreated to the three-point line, gathered and nailed the shot to give the Orange a 31-30 lead. Lewis continued her downhill approach in the second half. A minute into the third quarter, she beat her defender with a left-to-right crossover and finished at the rim. A hesitation dribble on the next possession gave her another make in the paint. Then, when Ohio’s defense sagged into the lane, Lewis drove and found Gabrielle Cooper in the corner for a 3-pointer. Three possessions, seven points, all Lewis.Even when her shot wasn’t falling — Lewis went 1-of-4 from deep — she stayed aggressive. After grabbing a rebound in traffic with 1:25 left in the third, Lewis went coast-to-coast and drew a foul at the rim. On a similar play later, she got cut off at the elbow, but found Cooper in the corner with a cross-court pass for a triple.“I think it allows us to play off each other,” Cooper said of the drive-and-kick offense. “When we started hitting shots that brought their defense out and that created more lanes and opportunities for dump-offs.”But Ohio kept the score close. Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense closed out on shooters inconsistently, and lost guard Erica Johnson — who finished with 13 points — on the perimeter often. Johnson’s triple late in the third quarter knotted the score at 46, but SU responded with a 14-0 run led by Lewis. Lewis scored seven of her 16 points in the final frame, including a pull-up 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock that banked in. Her fast break left-handed layup with six minutes remaining gave SU a 12-point lead, a margin it wouldn’t relinquish. Still, Lewis wasn’t perfect. She “needs to take care of the ball better” and make smarter decisions, Hillsman said. Against Ohio, Lewis had six turnovers.“That can’t happen,” Lewis said. “I mean, it’s the first game so all the jitters are out now. I’m not worried.”As Lewis dribbled out the clock with a double-digit lead, Tiana Mangakahia, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in June and ruled out for the season, watched from the bench. Before the game, Syracuse warmed up in customized t-shirts displaying “Tough4T,” and after the win Hillsman fantasized about what a “perfect storm” backcourt of Mangakahia and Lewis might’ve looked like this year. But the reality is it’s Lewis’s team to run now, Hillsman said, and as long as she plays aggressively, that doesn’t concern him. Commentslast_img

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