first_img Published on December 4, 2019 at 10:30 pm Contact David: [email protected] When Albany’s Alexis Schechter banked in a contested layup to reduce Syracuse’s lead to nine in the fourth quarter on Nov. 16, SU point guard Kiara Lewis immediately clapped her hands for the inbounds pass. Less than five seconds later, Lewis sprinted down the court and found Taleah Washington in the corner, who drove the baseline and converted a scoop layup. The Orange’s lead was back to double-digits, and a few possessions later, it was up to 18.The defensive intensity and offensive pace that helped Syracuse (4-3) rebuild its lead in an eventual 22-point win came with a small and versatile lineup on the floor. All five players could shoot 3-pointers, defend multiple positions and get up and down the court quickly.SU head coach Quentin Hillsman doesn’t want to label certain lineups as “small-ball,” but he plans on using combinations — like he did in the fourth quarter against Albany — to speed the game up and get more possessions.“We kind of needed to get the pace up, so we went a little smaller and that did the trick,” Hillsman said about the fourth quarter against Albany. “Some games, it’s not gonna be there. Some games, we’re gonna have to go bigger and try to pound the ball inside and play inside-out. So just whatever it takes to win the game, we have a good luxury right now where we can do that.”Eva Suppa | Digital Design EditorAdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe key to Hillsman’s freedom when switching lineups is sophomore Emily Engstler. At 6-foot-1, Engstler handles and shoots the ball like a guard. She’s even listed as one on the team’s official roster. Yet Engstler leads SU in rebounds (79), recording 40 more than any other player, and ranks second in blocks (10). In Syracuse’s small lineup against Albany, she played at the five on offense and four on defense.Pairing with SU’s three guards — Lewis, Washington and Gabrielle Cooper — Engstler works with Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi down low. While she isn’t the ball-handler or pull-up shooter Engstler is, Djaldi-Tabdi has expanded her range to become a legitimate stretch four. The Paris, France native is 6-for-13 from beyond the arc this season after taking zero 3-pointers all of last season.“When we put me at the five,” Engstler said. “I think it allows players like Maeva or Digna (Strautmane) to step up as a four or three and gives them a chance to be on the wing.”With the Orange down 9-4 in the first quarter against then-No. 1 Oregon on Nov. 24, Engstler got a rebound, pushed the ball upcourt herself and passed to Cooper, who found a cutting Djaldi-Tabdi for an open layup. Two minutes later, after a Strautmane steal, Lewis sprinted past two Ducks and swung it to a wide-open Cooper, who nailed a corner three to cap an 8-0 Syracuse run.“When we get in those smaller lineups, it really gets us in the flow of things,” Washington said. “We can run, we can get up quick threes.”Eva Suppa | Digital Design EditorOn defense, the small lineup means three guards will pressure the inbounds pass off of an SU make. Any combination of Lewis, Cooper, Washington or reserves like Elemy Colome and Alisha Lewis will filter in and out of the game to keep the pace. After Albany point guard Kyara Frames sunk two threes and had two assists in the first quarter, Hillsman assigned two defenders to her on every inbound pass. Frames hardly took the ball up and attempted two shots for the rest of the game.SU won’t go into a game planning to play a small lineup, Hillsman said. Instead, he relies on the team’s versatility to decide the lineup on the floor based on what he sees, and that can change anytime.“Even if you’re on the bench, you need to know how to play one through five,” Washington said. “Sometimes you see a guard in the deep corner, but then when a guard gets the rebound and pushes it up, you’ll see Maeva in the deep corner.”With Syracuse’s guard position the deepest it’s been in years — four guards average more than 14 minutes per game — it has the tools needed for Hillsman to change SU’s look on a whim.“If we’re playing well big, we’re gonna stay big,” Hillsman said. “If we go smaller and it turns the game around, then we’ll do that.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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