Sunday night, the greatest season in the Syracuse women’s basketball history book underwent another edit as the Orange advanced to the NCAA Tournament championship game with an 80-59 win over Washington in Indianapolis. SU (30-7) went wire-to-wire in the game, never trailing the Huskies (26-11) en route to their 16th win in their last 17 outings.
Syracuse played an excellent all-around game, including setting Final Four records in three-pointers made (12) and attempted (33). The Orange also turned in a strong defensive effort, holding Washington to 38.5 percent shooting on the night and forcing 18 turnovers. SU also owned the glass, posting a 46-28 rebounding advantage in the game, including gathering 17 off the offensive boards.
The Orange opened the game by tallying the first five points of the night and would eventually stretch that lead to 10-3 on a Brittany Sykes three-pointer just past the midpoint of the first quarter. Washington charged back to trim the lead to three before the media timeout, but SU came out of the break on fire.
Syracuse rang up nine straight points in under two minutes of action for a 21-9 lead with under a minute left in the first quarter. The Huskies got a three to cut into the lead, but Cornelia Fondren swished a pull-up jumper before the horn for a 23-12 Orange lead after one.
SU kept the momentum going in the opening minute of the second period, needing just over a minute to get a pair of baskets to extend their run to 15-3 and their lead to 15 points. Taylor Ford came off the bench firing shortly after that, hitting two triples that extended the lead to 18 points and forced a Husky time out with 5:25 left in the second quarter and the Orange holding a 36-18 lead.
Syracuse kept the pressure up, pushing the lead to 19 points with 4:30 left in the second on a Maggie Morrison triple. Washington rallied in the last four minutes of the quarter, scoring seven straight points to cut the margin to 39-27 with just over two minutes before the half. The two teams played evenly after that and the game went to intermission with the Orange holding a 43-31 lead.
The two squads traded scores in the first few minutes out of the break, but Washington got a three-pointer and a three-point play to shave the SU lead to 52-41 as the clock approached the midpoint of the third quarter.
Syracuse responded by scoring on six straight possessions for a 12-0 run that extended their lead to 23 points at 64-41. The Huskies scored to stop the run, but Alexis Peterson fired in a trey for a 67-43 Orange lead with just under two minutes left in the quarter.
Washington did not go quietly, though, scoring the last five points of the quarter to shave the gap to 19 points. The Huskies would continue their comeback, making it an 11-2 run overall to get within 69-54 just over three minutes into the fourth quarter.
The Huskies continued to grind away at the margin, getting within 13 points, but Sykes connected for a three-pointer and Brianna Butler added another one to push the lead back out to 78-59 with 4:21 on the clock. Butler’s three was her 128th of the campaign, setting a new NCAA single-season record.
The game well in hand, the Orange then began treating the clock as their primary concern. SU would be the only team to score in the final four minutes, adding a pair of free throws to their side of the ledger for an 80-59 final.
Alexis Peterson paced a balanced Syracuse offense with 18 points, scoring 14 after halftime. Brittany Sykes was right on Peterson’s heels with 17 points. Brianna Butler had four three-pointers for her 12 points and Cornelia Fondren chipped in with ten points off the bench. Taylor Ford chipped in with eight points and Briana Day had 15 rebounds to go with her seven points.
Talia Walton was electric for Washington, hitting 8-of-9 threes for a Final Four record, including all six of her tries in the first half, as she poured in 29 points in the game. Kelsey Plum provided 17 points in support, but beyond those two, the Huskies only had five field goals and 13 total points.
Perennial powerhouse Connecticut awaits the Orange in the national championship game. The Huskies advanced by routing Oregon State, 80-51, on Sunday evening. The 29-point margin is the largest in Final Four history and the win is the 74th straight for UConn, the second-longest streak in collegiate women’s basketball history.
Connecticut is looking for their fourth consecutive national title. Leading the Huskies is Breanna Stewart, a three-time Most Outstanding Player in the Final Four who played her high school basketball for Cicero-North Syracuse.
SU and UConn will meet for the national title on Tuesday at 8:30pm Eastern. ESPN will televise the game, which can also be seen online at ESPN3.com or through the Watch ESPN app.