WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) - Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman drew a giant No. 3 on the whiteboard at the half.
He knew his team had to figure out a way to stop Texas A&M star Chennedy Carter, who had 15 points in the first half, if the 18th-ranked Orange wanted to beat No. 20 Texas A&M.
His players responded, holding Carter to just three points in the second half and the Orange went on to a 75-65 victory on Wednesday night.
“We didn’t control Carter in the first half,” Hillsman said. “We got her in foul trouble (in the second half) and that was huge for us.”
It also helped that Syracuse got off to a strong start in the third quarter, scoring the first 13 points of the period to open up a 47-35 lead. The Orange extended the advantage to 16 late in the period and had a 60-47 lead heading into the final quarter.
Texas A&M (2-1) was down by 15 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Aggies started to press fullcourt and that rattled the Orange. The Aggies got within 71-65 with 1:27 left, but could get no closer as Syracuse made all four of its free throws in the final 39 seconds to seal the win.
“Our kids fought when we went into a blitz defense and got the steals, we couldn’t hit the layups,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “If we could have had a little more poise and hit the bunnies, then you get to the collar and choke limit. We couldn’t make the layups.”
Tiana Mangakahia scored 26 points to lead the Orange (2-1). Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi added 15 points and 11 rebounds for Syracuse.
Carter, who celebrated her 20th birthday on Wednesday night, finished the game with 18 points before fouling out with 38.7 seconds left.
“I just got to stay locked in and focused and make sure my teammates stay on the same page,” Carter said.
The game, which was played in Westchester at the home of the New York Liberty, tipped off a four-day stretch where Syracuse teams were playing in the New York City area. The men’s basketball team is playing at Madison Square Garden in a tournament on Thursday and Friday. The football team is playing Notre Dame on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
“We wanted to start ‘Orange in the city’ off right and we did,” Hillsman said.
The first 20 minutes was a back-and-forth contest with Texas A&M holding a 35-34 lead at the break. Carter had 15 points in the opening half. Mangakahia had nine for the Orange.
The two teams will play again next year in Houston. … Texas A&M arrived in New York on Monday and coach Gary Blair let his players walk around Times Square for a few hours to experience the city. … The first foul call on Texas A&M wasn’t until 23 seconds into the third quarter. After combining for just four fouls in the first half, the teams finished with 31. … Syracuse outrebounded Texas A&M 52-31.
Texas A&M was called for a technical foul when Cheah Rael-Whitsitt entered the game early in the third quarter. She wasn’t entered in the scorebook by accident.
Syracuse’s Veronika Vorackova will have to sit out the season after the NCAA ruled she had played for a team in the Czech Republic that considers itself to be professional. The freshman guard will still have three season of eligibility remaining. The school announced the NCAA’s decision Monday.
Vorackova sat out the Orange’s first two games as the school waited for the NCAA to make a decision. She was the MVP of the Under-20 FIBA women’s European Championship (B Division).
Texas A&M: visits Arkansas Little Rock on Tuesday. The Aggies are 163-6 against unranked teams since February, 2005.
Syracuse: hosts Bucknell on Sunday where the Orange are 143-41 under Quentin Hillsman.
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