Syracuse 75, No. 6 Ohio St. 66
Quentin Hillsman furrowed his brow as he scanned the Carrier Dome after the biggest win in his five seasons as head coach of the Syracuse women.
''We didn't even get a vote in the AP poll,'' Hillsman said with a big shrug - and a smile to match.
That's most likely going to change come Monday.
Erica Morrow scored a season-high 27 points, Tasha Harris hit a key 3-pointer late and inbounded to Iasia Hemingway for an important layup in the final minute, and Syracuse upset No. 6 Ohio State 75-66 on Saturday.
Syracuse (8-0) has won 36 straight nonconference home games, and none was bigger than this one. A victory nearly 15 years ago over perennial powerhouse Connecticut remains the Orange's signature triumph, but this one is a close second.
''That's a great, great performance by our team,'' Hillsman said. ''The kids just played hard. It's really good for us. I'm proud of them. We never talked about losing this game.''
Ohio State (7-1), bidding for its second straight 8-0 start under coach Jim Foster, lost to Syracuse for the first time in 10 meetings.
''I knew they had a great team,'' said Morrow, a senior guard who made four 3s in nearly matching her career high of 29. ''They have great post play and great guards. I knew I was going to have to step up big for my team. My team was telling me, 'Shoot the ball, shoot the ball, shoot the ball.' That's the key.''
Jantel Lavender led Ohio State with 26 points on 10 of 16 shooting and grabbed eight rebounds, while Samantha Prahalis had 17 points and eight assists, and Brittany Johnson had 13 points.
Syracuse beat then-No. 2 UConn 62-59 in January 1996 at Manley Field House for the program's first-ever win over a ranked opponent. That UConn team had won 40 consecutive Big East regular-season and tournament games and featured stars Nykesha Sales and Jennifer Rizzotti.
Leading 50-42 with 12:35 left, Syracuse seemed ready to cave against Ohio State when Prahalis, Tayler Hill and Johnson hit 3-pointers in succession to pull the Buckeyes to 54-51 with 10:29 left.
But every time the Buckeyes moved closer, the Orange held them at bay. Morrow's basket from the right wing put Syracuse up 61-56 with 6:56 left, but six straight points from Lavender got the Buckeyes within 63-62.
Carmen Tyson-Thomas responded with a 3 from the left corner to give Syracuse some breathing room, and after Prahalis' driving layup at 3:49, Ohio State's final basket, the Orange assumed control.
Sarah Schulze was called for a foul as she made a two-handed layup to tie the game at 66-all with 3:01 left, but the basket was waved off and 41 seconds later Harris swished a 3 from the right corner. It was her only 3-pointer of the game, and it gave the Orange a 69-64 lead.
Harris' inbound pass to Hemingway made it 71-64 with 48 seconds left and the Buckeyes were finished.
''I just think we fell into the trap of taking those easy shots,'' Foster said. ''It's obvious that by Jantel's numbers she was able to score and was probably open more.''
Syracuse entered the game tops in the nation in fewest points allowed per game at 43.8, and the Orange had held Delaware State to just three points in the second half of an 87-17 win a week ago. That was one point off the NCAA record, and Delaware State registered its lone basket of the period with 28 seconds left.
Syracuse also ranked first in field-goal percentage defense (28 percent) and rebounding margin (+20), and despite the step up in competition the Orange women more than held their own against the Buckeyes, who found few openings in the Syracuse zone.
''We played a little timid because we really hadn't had to face the 2-3 zone an entire game,'' Lavender said. ''That was a little bit of a shocker. We had areas when we could have penetrated a lot more than we did.''
Ohio State shot 38.7 percent, was 8 of 30 (26.7 percent) from beyond the arc, and was outrebounded 43-33 as Syracuse matched the Buckeyes with 24 points in the paint.
The game turned Syracuse's way after the Orange fell behind by 10 points midway through the first half.
Lavender, who had 12 points in the period, swished consecutive 10-foot jumpers to give Ohio State a 20-10 lead with 9 minutes left, but after Johnson hit a pull-up jumper at 7:26 to maintain that 10-point margin, Syracuse went on a 16-0 run to gain a lead it never relinquished.
''That's how we play,'' Hillsman said. ''We get down by 10-12 points, make a run to come back. We've grown up.''