Creighton 61, No. 22 Syracuse 56
Syracuse’s search for its first NCAA tournament victory ever
will carry on for at least one more season.
Although the Orange erased most of a 10-point deficit in the
final five minutes, they couldn’t overcome poor shooting Saturday
and fell 61-56 to Creighton in an NCAA tournament first-round
The loss dropped Syracuse to 0-5 all-time in NCAA tournament
action. Syracuse, the No. 7 seed in the Oklahoma City Regional, was
making its first NCAA appearance since 2008.
”Honestly, right now, I’m kind of in shock,” said Syracuse
center Kayla Alexander, who had 23 points and eight rebounds and
ended her career as the Orange’s all-time leading scorer. ”This
isn’t the way we thought, planned or imagined this would end. We
had such high expectations, and this wasn’t how we expected to
After trailing 55-45 with 4:54 remaining, Syracuse (24-8) held
Creighton (25-7) without a basket the remainder of the game.
Syracuse’s rally fell short when Elashier Hall’s attempt at a
game-tying 3-pointer went off the right side of the rim and the
backboard with three seconds left. Creighton’s Sarah Nelson added
two free throws with three-tenths of a second remaining.
Perhaps it was fitting Syracuse’s hopes ended on a missed shot.
Syracuse was doomed by poor shooting all day. The Orange shot 31
percent (18 of 58) overall and 15.8 percent (3 of 19) from 3-point
”We don’t shoot 15 percent behind the arc,” Syracuse coach
Quentin Hillsman said. ”That’s not how we play. We don’t shoot 31
percent from the field. We shoot 40 percent from the field
(usually) and we shoot almost 30 percent from behind the arc.”
Syracuse also couldn’t slow down Creighton guard McKenzie Fujan,
who scored a career-high 24 points while shooting 8 of 13 overall
and 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
Fujan kept Creighton afloat for most of the first half by
shooting 6 of 7 overall and 5 of 6 from 3-point range. She scored
her team’s first 11 points and had 17 by halftime.
The 5-foot-11 guard entered the tournament averaging just 9.3
points per game, but she had scored a career-high 22 in a Missouri
Valley Conference championship game loss to Illinois State and
carried that momentum over to the NCAA tournament.
”I think it’s just confidence,” Fujan said. ”My team has done
a great job finding me. I don’t know. I guess once you hit one,
it’s easier to hit the next few.”
Fujan wasn’t getting much help from the other Bluejays early
Creighton didn’t get a point from someone other than Fujan until
Alyssa Kamphaus made a free throw with 6:46 left in the first half.
The first Creighton basket from one of Fujan’s teammates came when
Carli Tritz sank a 3-pointer with 3:31 left in the half. Creighton,
which ranks second nationally with 9.3 3-pointers per game, missed
its first eight 3-point attempts and 11 of its first 12 shots
Somehow, the game was still tied 24-24 at halftime.
”Other than McKenzie, we couldn’t throw it in the ocean the
first 15 minutes, yet we were still in the game,” Creighton coach
Jim Flanery said. ”I said that’s a positive because at some point,
somebody else is going to start making baskets.”
Sure enough, Nelson had 14 of her 17 points and Marissa Janning
scored all 10 of her points after halftime as Creighton finished 11
of 36 from 3-point range. Syracuse shot 3 of 19 from beyond the arc
and only 31 percent (18 of 58) overall. Creighton also outrebounded
the taller Syracuse team 43-35.
”Our goal was to keep them at their average, which was nine 3’s
made,” Hillsman said. ”If we keep them at nine, I think it’s a
Syracuse cut the lead to 57-56 on Carmen Tyson-Thomas’ layup
with 19 seconds left. Fujan hit both ends of a one-and-one to make
it 59-56 with 16 seconds remaining, but the Orange still had a
chance to tie the game until Hall’s shot missed the mark.
”Never have I coached a tougher group of kids who omit to
playing hard,” Hillsman said. ”I’m tough on them. I demand a lot,
and they just (brought) it every single day.”