SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Syracuse hadn’t played in two weeks — since an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament loss to Notre Dame.
The rustiness showed against Fordham on Saturday, at least for the first 10 minutes.
After a slow start, the No. 3 seed Orange turned up the pressure, got into the flow of the game, and routed No. 14 seed Fordham 70-49 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Three Orange (25-8) scored in double figures, led by guard Tiana Mangakahia, who just missed a triple-double with 21 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. Gabrielle Cooper had 13 points on 4-of-6 shooting and forward Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi had 10 points. Mangakahia also had five steals.
The Orange, who will face South Dakota State (27-6) in a second-round game Monday, held Fordham (25-9) to 29 percent shooting. Syracuse hit at a 43 percent clip but at a blistering 64 percent from beyond the arc, going 9 of 14.
Kaitlyn Downey led Fordham (25-9) with 15 points. Lauren Holden and Bre Cavanaugh had nine apiece. Mary Goulding had eight points and 12 rebounds.
The Orange forced the Rams, who average 11 turnovers a game, sixth-fewest in the country, into 15 miscues, including five in the decisive second quarter.
Fordham held a 15-14 lead after one period, but the Orange outscored the Rams 24-12 in the second quarter, including the first 14 points in the period, to take a 38-27 halftime lead.
“We hadn’t played a real game in two weeks, so getting back into the flow of things was a little bit difficult,” said Mangakahia, who was 8 of 20 and 2 of 3 from the 3-point line. “After that first quarter and after the half we knew this is the tournament, it’s going to be up and down, and we had to just come out and give it our all. We started doing the things we do right.”
That included turning up the defensive pressure.
“Our pressure was effective once we started making shots,” Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman said. The Orange were 10 of 20 from the field and 4 of 4 from 3 in the second period.
“We just got sloppy (in the second quarter),” said Fordham coach Stephanie Gaitley. “It was part them, part our own ineptness. To beat a team like Syracuse you have to bring your best effort. We didn’t bring our best effort.”
Cavanaugh was in total agreement with her coach.
“We were doing the things we were supposed to be doing (in the first quarter). The turnovers killed us,” Cavanaugh said. “They executed on offense and capitalized on our turnovers. That was the issue. We just had mental lapses.”
Syracuse scored 22 points off Fordham’s errors.
The Orange blitzed the Rams 19-7 in the final 10 minutes to put the game away. Syracuse held the Rams to 2-of-10 shooting in the final quarter while the Orange hit 6 of 10, including all three attempts from beyond the arc.
Fordham concluded a largely successful season but just couldn’t keep up with the more talented Orange.
Syracuse will be favored heading into Monday’s showdown with South Dakota State, but the Jackrabbits have won 17 straight and will be a tough out.
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