Updated Tue, Dec 20, 2011 7:37 pm
In the final day of the Basketball Travelers "Duel in the Desert," the Ohio women’s basketball team was coming off a thrilling double overtime victory against Xavier, but still had to go up against a talented Syracuse squad. The ‘Cats held on until the end, but fell to the Orange 81-70.
Both teams sat at 1-1 in the tournament coming into the game. Syracuse, a team who likes to play on the run, got off to a fast start and was up by eight points, 16-8 with about 15 minutes left in the half. But Ohio held on and scored five straight points to cut the Orange’s lead to one, 18-17 with just under 12 minutes left in the first half. About a minute later, Mariah Byard was fouled on a three-point attempt, and made all three freebees to give Ohio its first lead, 20-18.
Syracuse regained the lead, but late in the first half, the Bobcats were beating the Orange at their own game. Ohio scored four fast break points to take back the lead, 27-26. Lead changes and ties were prevalent throughout the last stretch of the first 20 minutes, but Shanee Williams made a fast break lay-up with 17 seconds to go to give Syracuse a 42-41 lead going into the locker room.
The Bobcats allowed the Orange to shoot 48.6 percent from the field in the first half, but outrebounded Syracuse 21-20 and forced seven turnovers to stay within reach. Ohio went 14-33 from the field for 42.4 percent. Tenishia Benson had seven points and nine rebounds in the first half alone. Elashier Hall led the Orange in the first 20 minutes with nine points and four rebounds.
Syracuse jumped out to a 9-3 run to start the second half, but with a little less than 16 minutes to play, SU's Kayla Alexander picked up her fourth foul, sending Alesia Howard to the line. Alexander is the Orange’s best player, averaging 18 points and 8.6 rebounds for the season. Alexander finished the game with only five points. With 14:39 to go in the game, Mariah Byard brought the Bobcats back within three, stroking her third three of the game. The freshmen had 12 points, a career high, on 3 of 6 shooting from distance. At right about the 12-minute mark, Tenishia Benson guaranteed herself at least a double-double for the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds off a fast break lay-up, putting Ohio down just three points 57-54. Benson finished the game with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The Bobcats had trouble breaking the three-point deficit barrier, but continued to chip away at the Orange’s lead down the stretch. Ohio was down four, 64-60 with 7:32 to go. Ohio eventually came within two points, but Syracuse pushed ahead to take a nine-point lead 73-64 with about four minutes to go in the game. The Orange had an 11 point lead with about 2:20 to go after Iasia Hemmingway got the basket just as the shot clock expired, putting her team up 77-66. Despite a strong effort by Ohio throughout the whole game, Syracuse held on to its late lead and got the victory.
The Bobcats allowed a bit too much offense in the second half, as the Orange shot 50.8 for the game. Iasia Hemmingway led Syracuse with 24 points and 10 rebounds, but the Orange had three other players in double figures. Carmen Tyson-Thomas, Elashier Hall, and Shakeya Leary had 22, 13 and 10 points respectively.
Ohio finished 1-2 for the Duel in the Desert, but walks away with a great win against Xavier, a team that finished 29-3 last season. The Bobcats take a break for the holiday, but come back to Athens to face George Mason on December 29 to wrap up the non-conference portion of the season. MAC play starts January 4, when with the Bulls from the University at Buffalo pay a visit to the Convocation Center.