Full-court press carries Syracuse through nonconference schedule, toward Big East

first_img Published on December 30, 2012 at 9:39 am Contact David: [email protected] | @DBWilson2 It should have been a cake walk for Syracuse. The Orange was bigger, stronger, faster and simply just more talented than Wagner. But after more than nine sloppy minutes, SU trailed 9-5. Syracuse needed something to spark it.Head coach Quentin Hillsman unleashed his secret weapon—a sea of long arms, a flurry of athleticism—the Syracuse press.“We want to speed the game up,” Hillsman said, “we want to make the game fast, we want to get easy baskets and our press is doing that.”It’s not the 2-3 zone that the Orange generally plays in, but the full-court press is becoming more of a staple for SU (11-1) than ever before. Syracuse will get its final chance to work out the kinks of the press before Big East play begins Sunday at 1 p.m. against Boise State (6-5) in the Carrier Dome.As the season has drawn on, Hillsman has employed the full-court press more and more. Early in the year the Orange realized it had the personnel to run a press as effectively as ever before. The five freshmen, and especially the three HoopGurlz Top 100 players, all brought a new level of size and athleticism to the program, making this year’s group an ideal fit for full-court pressure.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBut early in the year it was a learning process. The press isn’t anything overly complicated and it is similar to many of the presses that the freshmen played at the high-school level. Still, as the season has gone on the freshmen have become more comfortable and SU’s press has bordered on elite.“There’s a huge adjustment to how they were when they first got here,” senior guard Carmen Tyson-Thomas said. “I feel like all the freshmen are a big part of our press. Sometimes I’ve got to remind them like don’t jump out of position, be the first one to the spot, stuff like that, but other than that I think they’ve really adjusted well to how we press.”Brittney Sykes in particular has thrived in the setup. The 5-foot-9 guard is perhaps the best athlete on the team—she competed in the McDonald’s All-American Game dunk contest—and ranks fifth with 20 steals while playing less than 20 minutes per game.Against Loyola (Md.), Sykes had a breakout performance, scoring 15 points and gathering five steals while spearheading the SU press. A week later, she grabbed five more steals during a 10-point performance against Binghamton.Her recent success is a product of her familiarity with the Syracuse defense. After an 11-point, three-steal debut performance against Farleigh Dickinson, Sykes failed to score in double figures again until the game against the Greyhounds. In high school, her teams often pressed – “pedal to the metal,” she says is her favorite style of play – which made the transition to the Orange defense easier, but she still knows how much she’s grown in this young season as she’s learned the system and trained with a college team.“It has slowed down as I come into my own now,” Sykes said. “The game is fast. I think for me to know the pace of the game and know how to pace myself and not be as tired towards the end or during the game, having the conditioning and endurance has really helped.”After Sunday, Syracuse begins its Big East schedule, in which the Orange will finally be tested on a regular basis. The press has bailed SU out in games where it’s struggled, but against the more talented Big East teams Hillsman’s press will allow Syracuse to “force the tempo” as it has early in the season.The Orange will finally see teams that can match that size, strength and athleticism—something the Broncos won’t be able to do. The press, which may bail SU out if it starts slow Sunday, could set Syracuse apart in conference play.And it just keeps getting better.Said Hillsman: “Every day that we can get to the gym and get the work in is paying great dividends for our press and obviously we create points off of that which is most important.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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