PULLMAN, Wash. – Syracuse University connected on back-to-back jumpers with under a minute to held off Washington State’s last second comeback attempt, 69-65 in the season opener for both teams at Beasley Coliseum Sunday.
Junior guard Tia Presley led WSU with 20 points and senior forward Sage Romberg added 15 as the Cougars forced 19 turnovers but yielded a 61-46 rebounding advantage to the Orange, who enter their first season playing in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Syracuse center Shakeya Leary led all players with 21 points and 16 rebounds as the Orange tallied 38 points in the paint and 16 second-chance points.
Washington State junior center Shalie Dheensaw recorded eight points and a career-high 13 rebounds in her first career start. Sophomore guard Lia Galdeira added 12 points for the Cougars.
Washington State battled through a tough shooting stretch in the opening minutes that saw them miss their first 10 shots before Presley got the Cougars on the board with a baseline drive for a layup. The Cougars continued to chip away at the Orange’ early 11-point lead, using a 13-1 run to take a 27-24 lead with 2:27 remaining. Presley scored five points during that stretch on a pair of cutting layups before Romberg knocked down a long jumper and Galdeira capped the run with a pair of free throws and a three in the left corner.
Late in the half, sophomore forward Mariah Cooks made a nice move in the paint, finishing with jumphook with her left hand and Presley closed the half with four more free throws to send the Cougars into the break leading 33-30. WSU hit 10 of their 12 free throw attempts and forced 11 Syracuse turnovers while the Orange owned a 31-21 rebounding advantage in the first 20 minutes.
Syracuse opened the second half with four straight points as both teams owned leads throughout the game. Presley continued to get into the lane for the Cougars, hitting a couple runners. Midway through the period, Cooks finished off a low post move with a layup and Galdeira followed with a pull-up jumper from the right wing to give WSU a 46-45 lead at the 12:10 mark.
Minutes later, Dheensaw hit a baseline jumper and Presley brought the Beasley crowd to its feet with a three from the left wing to push the Cougar lead to 51-47 with 9:35 remaining.
Syracuse answered back with an 8-0 run and held Washington State scoreless over the next five minutes to build a 55-51 advantage. But WSU received a couple free throws from Dheensaw and Romberg followed with a three to put Cougars back on top with 3:42 remaining.
Following a Syracuse bucket and free throw, sophomore guard Taylor Edmondson countered with a three from the left corner. Syracuse came back with a layup and Presley evened things up at 60 with a free throw with just over a minute remaining. The Orange scored on their next possession and then went up four after making a steal and going coast-to-coast for an easy layin with 32 seconds left.
The Cougars received a quick bucket from Romberg, cutting the lead to four, and then saw Syracuse turn the ball over on the ensuing inbounds pass. Washington State got the ball to Galdeira who raced the length of the court, drove into the lane and got off a good shot but the layup attempt rattled off the rim and Syracuse came down with the rebound. WSU was forced to foul and the Orange hit both free throws. Galdeira made things interesting by hitting a long three with three seconds left that brought WSU within two but Syracuse sealed things up with two more free throws.
The Cougars will hit the road for their next four games beginning with a Tuesday night matchup at Seattle University.