Syracuse riding refined transition game to four-game win streak

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 8, 2017 at 6:38 am Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 This time last year, Syracuse’s up-tempo pace powered it to a nine-game win streak at the end of conference play. SU’s quest for its first-ever Final Four began to take form and opponents tailored their defenses to SU’s aggressive approach. Through SU’s first seven conference games this season, the Orange averaged only 7.4 fast-break points per game, down from its 10.6 points per game average last year in the Atlantic Coast Conference (excluding Feb. 2016 against Pittsburgh). Syracuse’s high-pressure, frenetic style of play hadn’t equated to easy layups in 3-on-2 and 2-on-1 opportunities the same way it did a year ago. Until recently. A refined transition game has No. 20 Syracuse (17-7, 8-3 ACC) rolling on a four-game win streak. SU has averaged 11.25 transition points per game over the stretch, almost four points per game more than its average through its first seven ACC games. With five regular-season games remaining, that bodes well for an SU team reliant on a high-energy attack to hang with higher-ranked teams, starting at No. 14 Duke on Friday night.“To beat a big team,” redshirt senior guard Brittney Sykes said, “we need to run the floor.”For a team that spends nearly as much practice time on its transition game as it does on its offensive and defensive sets, fast-paced points should be easier to come by. SU’s averaging 8.8 transition points per game in ACC contests and has already gotten outscored in transition three times this season. Yet when it outscores opponents on the break, the Orange is 7-0 in conference. For SU, it’s been simple. Get out in transition and win. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSU doesn’t practice its full-court transition game. Instead guards and bigs break down fast-break attacks by position in half-court and quarter-court scenarios. One of Syracuse’s favorite transition drills is the three-person weave, which mimics the 3-on-2 situations SU strives for in games. The up-beat offense is part of SU head coach Quentin Hillsman’s pitch to recruits. You’ll score four, six more points per game if you run the floor hard, he tells recruits and players. In games, Sykes said there’s hardly a time she runs past her coach and he doesn’t tell her to keep up her motor. A strong transition game has for years been at the core of Syracuse’s style. “We’re going to be a hard-nosed team, really pressure, have a fast-paced offense, just create the uncomfortable,” Hillsman said in October.Senior point guard Alexis Peterson, who leads the ACC in scoring and spearheads SU’s transition game, pointed to the fact that SU has taken fewer 3-pointers on the break. That, she said, may explain why Syracuse isn’t scoring as much in transition. When on the break, SU’s scoring formula hinges on a trailer. In many cases, that’s senior center Briana Day, who follows Peterson or Sykes and sets a ball screen to keep SU’s offense moving downhill. Guards can spot up behind the 3-point line or cut to the paint for a pass.“We’re not just settling for 3s,” Peterson said. “We’ll take a 3 if we get it, but we’re going hard to the basket on rim attacks.”Several weeks ago, SU made then-No. 14 Miami pay for not getting back on defense. Instead of keeping two or three players back, the Hurricanes crashed the boards. They picked up 18 offensive rebounds, but got outscored in transition 13-0. SU blew out Miami by 33. The big adjustments for SU have come in several areas. Fewer transition 3-pointers. Peterson and Sykes taking over games. Nearly 26 points off turnovers per game. “It’s a nightmare” Sykes said. “It’s pick your poison when we’re running our lanes. Push the ball, run the floor. It’s paying off.”Call it run-and-gun. Call it fast-paced. Syracuse calls it “orange collar.” But don’t dismiss it, as SU’s aggressive style could very well be the difference between another postseason run or an early exit. Commentslast_img

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