Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 20, 2013 at 1:40 am Contact Trevor: email@example.com | @TrevorHass Elashier Hall ran off of Shakeya Leary’s screen and bulldozed toward the basket.She laid the ball up and in, drawing a foul in the process. The and-one extended Syracuse’s lead to double digits, capping an 11-0 run for the Orange that burst the game open and distanced SU from Rutgers.Following a sluggish, puzzling 15-point first half, Syracuse (22-3, 10-2 Big East) scored 43 points in the second half, knocking off Rutgers (14-11, 5-7) 58-45 and depriving C. Vivian Stringer of her 900th career win. That second-half spurt was the difference Tuesday at the Carrier Dome, as Hall, Brianna Butler and Carmen Tyson-Thomas took matters into their own hands and ignited the Orange to victory.“I think coming into the second half, we played more of our tough style of basketball,” Butler said. “We made more shots, slowed it down and took care of the ball, and I think that was the major change.”In the first half, Syracuse didn’t take care of the ball, and it certainly didn’t make shots. The Orange shot just 6-of-30 and turned the ball over 14 times in its lowest-scoring half of the season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMired in an inexplicable slump, Syracuse played sloppily and disjointedly throughout the entire first half.SU head coach Quentin Hillsman tried everything. He even put the 5-foot-9 Tyson-Thomas at center, going with a three-guard lineup with Butler, Brittney Sykes and Rachel Coffey.His three-guard scheme was partially just an experiment. Nothing else was working. The offense was stagnant and no one could hit shots, so Hillsman knew he needed scorers on the floor.But it was also out of necessity. Kayla Alexander picked up her second personal just more than five minutes into the game on a soft foul. She sat on the bench for the rest of the half as Leary logged heavy minutes and SU’s offense remained dormant.“It was frustrating, but at the same time, our bench is deep,” Alexander said. “Any other person can step up and play. It’s frustrating to watch from the bench, but I’ll gladly watch my teammates just as much, too.”With 4:35 remaining in the first, Hillsman implored his team to “push it.” But that didn’t work, either. Coffey heaved the ball into Tyson-Thomas’ vicinity, hoping she’d catch the Hail Mary. But Rutgers guard Precious Person intercepted the pass. Butler snatched it from Person and dished it to Tyson-Thomas, but the guard missed a layup and the ball skirted out of bounds off of her foot.It was a microcosm of the abysmal opening frame full of errant passes, lackadaisical rebounding and atrocious shooting. At halftime, the Orange players were flustered, wondering what they could do to rectify an unimpressive first half.“I just challenged them,” Hillsman said. “I said, ‘The tougher team’s going to win.’ At halftime, I just went down the row to each player and I told them, ‘You’re not doing this, you’re not doing that. It’s up to you.’”And Syracuse delivered.After trading baskets with the Scarlet Knights through the first nine-plus minutes, Syracuse started to take command. Tyson-Thomas started the 11-0 run with a bucket at the 10:31 mark, converting inside and clapping her hands twice in excitement.Two possessions later, Alexander muscled her way to an and-one off of a crafty pass from Coffey. Alexander hit the free throw, propelling Syracuse to a 32-27 lead, which was the biggest lead for either team at that point.After three free throws, Hall’s and-one capped the run – one that was the first spurt for either team.Minutes later, Butler drilled two 3-pointers that put the game out of reach. The first came off of a pass from Alexander, while Sykes fed Butler on the second, which sealed a 20-9 run for the Orange.“First half, I had a poor shooting half from the 3, but second half I just wanted to come in with the mentality that I had to make shots in order to help my team,” Butler said.Syracuse only turned the ball over three times in the second half, chopping 11 off its first-half total. Loose balls that went Rutgers’ way in the first half went to Syracuse in the second. Shots that rolled around the rim and out became swishes and momentum-shifting 3-pointers.“When you play a game like that, it has to be the intangible things,” Hillsman said. “It has to be 50-50 balls and hustle, and I thought in the second half we did that.” Comments
The never-ending sports cycle that is USC athletics is back for another fall semester — a period of time that never seems to lack excitement.Football, of course, takes the cake. You may remember a year ago — not more than a week into the semester — when a horde of news trucks and cameras swarmed the practice field after head coach Steve Sarkisian went rogue at the annual Salute of Troy event.The scandal followed the team for much of the season, as Sarkisian took a leave of absence and was promptly fired after his problems with alcohol came to light. They lost to Stanford and Washington at home and to Notre Dame on the road (where then-Athletic Director Pat Haden collapsed on the sideline). And yet, a team mired in controversy and negative attention — seemingly bound for a lost season — won five of its final six games and ended up four quarters away from an improbable trip to the Rose Bowl.But the Trojans were literally run out of Levi’s Stadium by Christian McCaffrey and Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and their season ended with a loss to Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl, a game that was just as bitter as the cold winter night at Qualcomm Stadium.Assuming they make it past Salute to Troy on Aug. 19 without incident, the Trojans will already be in better shape than they were last year entering the season. But — unexpected controversy aside — criticism could still be quick to rain down on the No. 17 ranked team in the nation in the preseason coaches’ poll.There will be a new quarterback — either the redshirt junior Max Browne or unexpected challenger redshirt freshman Sam Darnold — and whomever is chosen will be thrown into the fire quickly. The man who picks him will be Clay Helton, entering his first full season at the helm, feted with a long-term contract and a plate full of expectations to restore USC football to national prominence.For a rookie head coach with an unproven quarterback, an easy schedule to begin the season would be beneficial — maybe games against Arkansas State or Fresno State. Um, how about facing Alabama, Stanford and Utah in three of their first four games, all away from the Coliseum?The task ahead is daunting, but it wouldn’t be Trojan football without it. The program is no stranger to adversity in recent years, from the crippling sanctions to the Lane Kiffin era to the Sarkisian fiasco.This year, it’s a story that could end in any number of ways, and it will be under a new Athletic Director in Lynn Swann. Much like Helton will seek to calm the waters on the sidelines, Swann will look to provide stability at the top after Haden’s up-and-down tenure.Fair or unfair, athletic directors at USC are ultimately judged by the accomplishments of the football team, but Swann could extend a positive first impression if other fall sports succeed as well.He has some good cards to play right away. Men’s water polo is a perennial lock to make the NCAA title match, and the legendary Jovan Vavic and new co-head coach Marko Pintaric will be hungry to avenge last season’s championship defeat to UCLA. Women’s volleyball is also a national powerhouse, going 33-3 last season and appearing in the NCAA Regional Championship match for the fifth time in six years. Women’s soccer is a program on the rise. Fresh off a deep postseason run, the Women of Troy will return most of their starters and are projected to finish second in the Pac-12 in the preseason coaches’ poll.But, like it or not, those three programs could each have unbeaten seasons and it wouldn’t mitigate the backlash that would come with a mediocre football campaign. The buck stops (and starts) with Helton and who he picks to be his quarterback. And when kickoff happens against defending national champion Alabama — as someone once wrote in a book — let the games begin, and may the odds be ever in their favor. Eric He is a sophomore majoring in print and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Grinding Gears,” will run Fridays.