How the nation’s 7th-leading scorer poses a threat to 4th-seeded Syracuse in the Round of 64

first_img Published on March 17, 2016 at 7:29 pm Contact Paul: [email protected] | @pschweds Savannah Crocetti dribbled around a ball screen at the top of the 3-point arc while wearing a green pinnie. Everyone else on the floor was in Syracuse’s typical white or orange reversible practice jersey on Wednesday. Crocetti had to stand out in practice and her teammates had to learn to identify her.Leading up to SU’s matchup against Army, the freshman walk-on was tasked with imitating the Black Knights’ shooters during walk-throughs, including Kelsey Minato, the three-time Patriot League Player of the Year and nation’s seventh-leading scorer. The No. 4 seed Orange’s (25-7, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) defensive gameplan revolves around identifying No. 13 seed Army’s (29-2, 17-1 Patriot) personnel. Whether or not SU executes against the Black Knights will be decided on Friday at 2:30 p.m. in the Carrier Dome in the Round of 64 of the NCAA tournament.“She can shoot it off the bounce, she can shoot whenever she wants to, she can shoot in transition,” Syracuse’s Cornelia Fondren said of Minato. “I think that’s the biggest thing we have to stop with her because she doesn’t really get to the basket on film that much.”Minato averages 23.6 points per game. Her 48.4 3-point percentage ranks second nationally. Army head coach Dave Magarity said his team has seen “every conceivable defense” to try and stop the crafty point guard.The Orange, on the other hand, leads the country in caused turnovers with 24.6 per game. Opponents shoot an average of 29.5 percent from beyond the arc against SU and the combination of its full-court press and half-court 2-3 zone has given opponents fits all season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“We got to get Minato clean looks when we can,” Magarity said.The key to beating the zone is ball movement. If passes go inside and Syracuse’s defense collapses, there will be ample opportunities on the perimeter to “let it fly,” Minato said. And that bodes well for a team that ranks second in the nation with a 41.6 3-point field-goal percentage.The Orange plans to stick to its usual defensive sets, though. Only once this year has Syracuse deviated from its half-court zone to a box-and-one. In the first game of the season, Rhode Island point guard Charise Wilson scored 26 points in the first three quarters. Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman made the adjustment to put Fondren on her man-to-man. Wilson didn’t score a point in the fourth and SU won by three.Courtesy of Army AthleticsFondren said Syracuse prepares to go to the box-and-one before every game just in case a player single-handedly beats the zone. Washington’s Kelsey Plum, who ranks third in the country in scoring with 26.2 points per game, is the player SU’s faced this year that compares most to Minato. But the Orange wasn’t forced to change its defense in-game, held Plum to 19 points and escaped with a four-point win.“We have to do everything we can to control (Minato) off the bounce and not allow her to take the game over,” Hillsman said. “She has a great ability to score and she’s a fantastic player. We’ve seen a lot of film on her and we have to find a way to slow her down”With 31 game tapes to watch, Hillsman is prepping for specific sets. Syracuse knows Army will look to drive and kick. It knows its’ offense runs through Minato. The only thing left to do is stop it on the court.One other skill that makes Minato dangerous is her ability to disguise whether or not she’s shooting, SU guard Brittney Sykes said. It’s just another tool on a belt filled with them.“She’s a really good deceptive player,” Sykes said. “She’ll put you to sleep.”If Syracuse can’t identify her without a green pinnie and she takes over on Friday, she’ll put the Orange’s season to sleep, too. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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