LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) — Syracuse guard Brittney Sykes had 13 points and 12 rebounds before injuring her right knee midway through the second half as the sixth-seeded Orange beat Chattanooga 59-53 Saturday for its first-ever NCAA tournament win.
Leading 40-36 with 12:46 remaining, Sykes drove to the basket before grabbing her leg and screaming. The Orange stayed strong without their top scorer, using a 52-36 rebounding edge to stretch the lead to 10 with 2:33 left before withstanding a late Chattanooga rally featuring three 3-pointers from Taylor Hall.
Syracuse (23-9) hit 24 of 31 free throws to seal the victory that also snapped Chattanooga’s 25-game winning streak. Shakeya Leary made 7 of 8 from the line to finish with 15 points.
Brianna Butler was just 2 of 11 from the floor but hit 9 of 10 free throws for 13 points.
The Orange will face third-seeded Kentucky in the second round on Monday night.
Chattanooga (29-4) hit just 4 of 14 from the foul line. Hall led the Lady Mocs with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Hall’s final 3-pointer cut the Orange’s lead to 57-53 with 13 seconds left. Leary sank two free throws four seconds later for the final margin.
Syracuse’s strong foul shooting offset its 17-of-54 performance (32 percent) from the field. Chattanooga also struggled to make shots, hitting just 21 of 61 (34 percent).
Chattanooga’s Faith Dupree hit her second jumper in the first two minutes of the second half to bring the Lady Mocs within 30-28, the closest they came the rest of the game.
Tough defense and lackluster shooting marked the first half and both teams made below 36 percent. Syracuse hit 2 of 13 attempts (15 percent) from behind the arc while Chattanooga was 1 of 9 (11 percent) from long range.
A 14-7 edge on second-chance points helped the Orange to a 28-24 halftime lead.
Neither team led by more than three for the game’s first nine minutes. Tied at 11, Syracuse got second-chance baskets from Taylor Ford and Leary and Rachel Coffey’s 3-pointer in transition as part of a 9-2 run to give the Orange a 20-13 lead with 8:33 left in the first half.
Chattanooga’s 6-0 run got the Lady Mocs within one before Syracuse responded with six straight points in 1:17 to lead 26-19 at the 3:50 mark of the first half.
Hall’s up-and-under score with four seconds left in the half cut the Syracuse lead to four at the break.