Syracuse beats Washington, 80-59, heads to program’s first-ever title game

INDIANAPOLIS — In a national semifinal game featuring two newcomers to the Final Four, No. 4-seeded Syracuse (30-7) appeared to have no jitters in a decisive 80-59 victory over No. 7 Washington (26-11). The Orange reached the 30-win mark for the first time in program history with the win.

“They competed at a high level,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “They pushed the pace, pushed the tempo. And that’s the difference in the game. We just wanted to get up and down and play fast. And I thought that we spread them up some in certain instances where we really needed to get the game going, and we got it going pretty good. But just happy with the win and happy to be moving on to the championship game.”

The teams combined for 23 three-point field goals, the most combined by two squads in a Women’s Final Four matchup. Both teams hit at least 10 three-point shots. Washington was 12-of-33 from three-point land while Washington finished 11-of-25.

The Orange raced out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter with a balanced effort led by Brittney Sykes and Cornelia Fondren. Syracuse led 23-12 at the end of the first quarter.

Washington mounted a comeback in the second quarter, paced by Talia Walton. Syracuse only outscored the Huskies by one in the second period 20-19. Walton scored 19 points in the first half including 6-of-6 three-pointers. However, her team trailed Syracuse 43-31 heading into the break. She was among four Washington players that scored in the first half.

On the other hand, Syracuse had nine players in the scoring column at halftime, led by Taylor Ford with eight points.

Syracuse kept Washington from gaining any momentum in the third quarter, outscoring their opponent 24-17. Walton cooled off in the fourth quarter as Kelsey Plum picked up her scoring pace to add eight points in the last ten minutes. Syracuse still outscored Washington 13-11 in the last period to earn the win.

Alexis Peterson led Syracuse with 18 points plus six assists. Sykes added 17 points and four rebounds. Brianna Butler was also in double figures with 12 points along with six rebounds and four assists. Fondren added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Butler tied the NCAA record for most three-point field goals in a season with her 127th three-pointer of the season with 4:48 to go in the third quarter. She later broke the record with her 128th of the season with 4:26 remaining in the fourth quarter. Butler remains in 12th place on the NCAA career three-point field goals made list.

Walton paced Washington with 29 points. Plum contributed 17.

Junior forward/center Chantel Oshaor remained positive even after the loss as Washington had a history-making season coming into the Final Four for the first time. She had 10 rebounds in the first half and finished with 14 to go along with her three points from one three-point shot.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Osahor about making it to the Final Four. “We didn’t get what we wanted today but we’ve got to look back on this as a positive. I’m so proud of this team and that we battled, battled and battled. The score was not what we wanted to be but we never stopped fighting and I’m proud of them.”

The teams were meeting for the second time this season after Syracuse won 66-62 on Nov. 27, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“We’re obviously very happy with the win,” Hillsman said. “Our kids — they were just amazing tonight. And it was a game about toughness, but Washington, what an amazing team. And Coach Neighbors is just a good guy. You just want them to win so bad. And he played a very good game and has a tough team. Give him a lot of credit. Kelsey Plum is an amazing player. Challenged us two times this year. And she’s just an amazing kid and just a real hardworking kid, hardworking team.”

The Huskies earned the most wins this season since 1989-90.

Syracuse faces ten-time national champion and top-seed Connecticut, the winners of the last three tournaments, Tuesday night at 8:30 p.m. EDT.


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