Syracuse pressure defense establishes itself among top of ACC

first_img Published on January 22, 2015 at 12:10 am Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Facebook Twitter Google+ Cornelia Fondren’s personal motto is that offense sells tickets and defense wins games.When Syracuse’s defense forces a turnover, Alexis Peterson said it energizes the team in a way that’s required for success.“It’s about heart. It’s about how you’re going to compete and take pride in what you’re doing,” Peterson said, “and we pride ourselves on defense.”While the No. 23 Orange (13-5, 3-2 Atlantic Coast) allows 59 points per game, the team’s defensive statistics are impressive. Briana Day leads the ACC with 3.1 blocks per game, Peterson leads the conference with 2.6 steals per game and Fondren is third with 2.2 steals per contest.When SU travels to Pittsburgh (12-5, 2-2) on Thursday for a 7 p.m. game, these three players will likely take on major roles on the defensive end.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange attacks defensively after nearly every basket it makes. As soon as the ball falls through the hoop, the team goes into a 2-2-1 full-court press. Two guards stay in the frontcourt, get up on the ball-handlers and try to force them toward the sidelines.The forwards stay around midcourt and slide back as the offensive team moves the ball up the court. The center’s job is to protect the rim as the last line of defense.“I think they’re very conscious of their positions and in the past, they’ve not been that way,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “… They’re locking in to their scheme and they’re just doing a remarkable job right now.”When the ball is brought across half court, that’s when Peterson and Fondren send the double team. And because Hillsman tends to play four guards at once, Syracuse gains an advantage. Versatile players like Brianna Butler and Taylor Ford are both faster than a typical forward, Day said, which creates matchup problems for opponents. When guards Diamond Henderson and Maggie Morrison come off the bench, Fondren bumps to forward.The high-tempo nature of the press puts a premium on athleticism and quickness, which is why playing four guards at once is the right fit for Hillsman’s system. Going fast from one spot on the court to another has led to the Orange’s overflow of steals. Fondren attributed the team’s success — SU ranks first in the ACC in steals per game with 11.7 — to Peterson, because she gets in the passing lanes and the rest of the team capitalizes.“I think we’re pretty athletic with four guards on the floor and then our post players are pretty athletic as well,” Day said. “So, I think we match up with other teams who have slower post players.”Day, the Orange’s primary center, also fits well in Hillsman’s scheme. Her game is more predicated on her ability to move around the court and less on her physicality. This season, she’s emerged as the conference’s best shot-blocker because she’s figured out how to time her blocks without being called for fouls.Instead of swatting down on offensive players like she used to, Day has learned to keep her arms straight up in the air and still block the ball.“I think she’s being more patient,” Peterson said. “She’s able to read the player more instead of just going up and using her athleticism. She’s becoming smart with it.”With SU owning the worst field-goal shooting percentage in the ACC, having a stout defense to rely upon is crucial to its success.“If we’re up and we’re pressing and we have that energy, we’re all clicking on defense,” Peterson said. “It can turn a team over and we can go on a run and discourage them.” Commentslast_img

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