- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Syracuse Orange coach Quentin Hillsman put Albany’s defense on notice, Saturday.

If the Great Danes intend to stick to playing zone in their women’s NCAA Tournament second-round matchup on Sunday, then Hillsman will give his outside threats the green light to shoot all they want.

“We’re going to shoot 50 3s tomorrow,” he said. “I mean, that’s what we do. We’re going to play in transition. We’re going to press. And if they’re going to give us open shots, we’ve got to take them. And we’ll shoot 50 of them.”

Let it rain, Great Danes coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said.

“They certainly live and die by the 3,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “A lot of teams in their league were afraid to play them zone because of the way they shoot 3s. We are obviously not afraid of that.”

The makings of a budding rivalry are developing between two schools separated by 140 miles of New York State Thruway but with little history between them. Syracuse is 3-0 against Albany, including a 69-38 win in their most recent meeting on Dec. 6, 2010.

Hillsman has plenty of confidence in his Orange (26-7), who are seeded fourth in the Sioux Falls Region, and seeking to win their first second-round game in eight tournament appearances. They’re coming off a 73-56 win over Army, in which Syracuse’s swarming defense and up-tempo style had the Orange up 39-14 at halftime.

The 12th-seeded Great Danes (28-4) are riding some momentum of their own. The five-time defending America East champions are coming off their first tournament victory in which they rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat Florida 61-59.

Albany pulled out the victory despite their top scorer, senior forward Shereesha Richards, playing just 22 minutes before fouling out.

Guard Imani Tate picked up the slack by scoring 28 and helping set up Heather Forster’s go-ahead layup with 1:39 left.

“It shows we can play with big teams and that we shouldn’t be afraid or we shouldn’t be nervous,” Great Danes guard Erin Coughlin said.

Abrahamson-Henderson is confident Richards will play with more discipline.

“She gets it. She knew she shouldn’t have gotten a couple of those,” the coach said of the program’s career leading scorer and three-time conference player of the year. “She learns her lessons quickly, and won’t do that to her team tomorrow.”

Hillsman took note of the confidence the Great Danes expressed in themselves during their news conference.

“We all heard the press conference. We understand what’s being said,” Hillsman said. “I don’t think they’re scared. I don’t think they’re just happy to be in this game. So we’re not overlooking anybody.”

The Orange lead the nation in both forcing turnovers (24 per game) and not committing them (14). They have outside threats in Brianna Butler, who leads the nation in averaging 3.39 3-point baskets, and guard Alexis Peterson. Syracuse also has an intimidating inside presence in center Briana Day.

“You stop one, you have about five or six more that come in,” said Peterson, noting Syracuse has won 12 of 13, with the loss coming to Notre Dame in the Atlantic Coast Conference final. “I think we earned a lot of respect, and we showed that we can compete with these top teams in the country.”

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TOURNAMENT TIDBITS

Syracuse: Hillsman has no worries with Butler going a combined 4 of 27 in 3-point attempts over the past four games. His bigger concern is Butler passing up seven open shots against Army. “We want her to keep shooting,” he said.” … Syracuse has attempted 30 or more 3-point shots 17 times this season, including a school record 49 in a 97-48 win over Howard on Dec. 30. … The Orange are 78-4 at home against non-conference opponents under Hillsman.

Albany: The Great Danes have won seven straight and 20 of 21, with their only loss a 65-53 defeat at Maine on Feb. 14. … Albany’s 28 wins match a school record set in 2013-14. … Ranked 11th in the nation in allowing 52.4 points a game, Albany is 26-0 when holding an opponent under 60.

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