Syracuse upsets No. 1 seed South Carolina for first-ever bid to the Elite Eight

first_imgSIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Alexis Peterson ran to half court, bent her knees and brought her palms together. She dropped her back and looked to the top of the Denny Sanford Premier Center. Syracuse’s bench spilled onto the court, too. South Carolina’s players walked off, some with their heads tucked inside their jersey, coming to the realization that their season was over.Peterson jumped into Briana Day’s arms and Brianna Butler stood by their side. 64 percent of Syracuse’s scoring, 43 percent of the Orange’s rebounding and 57 percent of SU’s assists met on the court.Only minutes had passed before Peterson’s aunt, Carla Norris was on her cell phone and yelled, “Huge upset! Huge! Huge!”SU improbably knocked off the one-loss Gamecocks in an 80-72 win to advance to its first-ever Elite Eight. Seven percent of voters in a Twitter poll chose Syracuse to advance out of the Sioux Falls region. 6.1 percent of participants in ESPN’s Bracket Challenge picked the Orange to advance past the Sweet 16. Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 25, 2016 at 9:17 pm Contact Paul: | @pschwedscenter_img “I feel that our coaching staff and the 15 people dressed in uniform are the only ones that believe that we can pull off an upset of this magnitude at this time of year,” Peterson said. “I was overcome with joy.”After being blown out by South Carolina in the Round of 32 and losing to USC by four during the regular season last year, No. 4 seed Syracuse (28-7, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) got revenge against the No. 1 seed Gamecocks (33-2, 16-0 Southeastern) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. SU will face No. 7 seed Tennessee on Sunday at 3:30 p.m.Following Syracuse’s loss to second-ranked Notre Dame in the ACC tournament championship — its only loss since Jan. 25 — Orange head coach Quentin Hillsman said his team could win a national title. Nineteen days later, SU got another step closer.“Coach said as long as we keep the game close, we’ll have the opportunity to win,” Butler said. “He gave us confidence and told us to play the game the way we’ve been playing all year. That’s what we did.”The Orange knocked off No. 13 seed Army and No. 12 seed Albany in the first two rounds of the tournament. But SU was seeded significantly higher than those teams and the matchup with the Gamecocks was SU’s biggest challenge yet.With just over five minutes left to play, Butler tied it at 61 with a jump shot. Peterson looked up at the scoreboard and thought back to last season’s matchup with South Carolina in the Bahamas. That game was tied at 60 with just over two minutes to play. But in that time, SU committed two turnovers and USC hit a 3 and a layup to take a four-point lead for good.“I looked up and was like, ‘You got to be solid. At all costs, this is it,’” Peterson said. “If we were solid, I knew we had a chance to finish it out.”Syracuse didn’t commit a single turnover in the final five minutes. Butler, who started the game 4-of-13 from the field, hit two 3s in that period. Hillsman has told her throughout her entire career to shoot the ball even when her shots aren’t falling. Down the stretch, it paid off.The first came in transition from the top of the key. The second came out of an SU timeout and Butler got open curling around a screen.“I just told Butler (at halftime), you got to make some shots or we’re going home,” Hillsman said. “Second half she was amazing. She was amazing.”South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said that’s what happens when players get into foul trouble. Four of her players had four fouls and couldn’t play as aggressively on defense at the end of the game.With each make, Syracuse’s bench jumped up even more explosively than the last. SU’s players on the court scrambled to get back into its full-court press. And the small Syracuse contingent in the Premier Center repeatedly rose to its feet and let out cheers of “Let’s go Orange!”The Gamecocks turned to its go-to players, Alaina Coates and A’ja Wilson for layups down the stretch. But its 2s couldn’t match Syracuse’s 3s.“We had 7 percent. That’s not a lot, you know,” Hillsman said of the poll. “We just said, We’re just going to go and play basketball. They can give us the 7 percent. We were 100 percent confident if we played our game we had a chance to win the basketball game.”When Syracuse was placed in the Sioux Falls region on Selection Monday, Hillsman said he was looking forward to learning more about the city located in South Dakota. With Friday night’s win, he’ll have an extra two days to do just that. Commentslast_img read more