Home » poworgnv » Syracuse prepares to face toughest test yet in Duke forward Azurá Stevens

Syracuse prepares to face toughest test yet in Duke forward Azurá Stevens

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Isabella Slim’s corner 3 fell short of the basket and deflected off the nearside of the rim. Briana Day tried corralling the rebound with just her right hand since she hadn’t fully fended off Anushka Maldonado.The ball tipped off Day’s fingertips and into Maldonado’s. Texas Rio Grande Valley’s 6-foot-1 center had beaten Syracuse’s 6-foot-4 center as Maldonado grabbed her first of nine rebounds against the Orange.It was a reflection of what could happen if Day doesn’t get in the right positions, especially against even bigger forwards in conference play.“Sometimes it’s not about boxing out, it’s about getting in open areas,” Day said. “That’s a big part about playing someone bigger than you is getting into bigger areas, because I lose the body size challenge so I have to get into small gaps.”The Orange (10-3) faces its first Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in No. 12 Duke (11-3) and dynamic 6-foot-6 forward Azurá Stevens on Sunday at 1 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. Stevens can create plays both on the inside of the floor and the outside, making it a team-wide responsibility to stop her, SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textStevens averages 18.2 points, but her 8.9 rebounds (second in ACC) are what could provide trouble on the inside for Day, who averages eight boards (fourth in ACC).Stevens is accounting for nearly 25 percent of Duke’s points and is also the most efficient player in the conference, according to WBBState.com. She’s scored in double digits in 28 straight games, the longest active streak in the ACC by more than 10 games.“She pops to the top and shoots the ball just as much as she does anything down toward the baseline,” Hillsman said. “She’s just a multi-dimensional player.”SU has already faced dominant players in Washington guard Kelsey Plum and Maryland center Brionna Jones. Plum leads Division I with 28.1 points per game and is even more efficient than Stevens. Jones averages a more balanced 14.9 points and nine rebounds. But Plum mostly did her damage on the perimeter and Jones in the paint.Stevens presents a challenge SU hasn’t seen yet with more height and a more varied skill set.“She’s a great player,” Hillsman said. “She has great size, can shoot the ball, she can put the ball on the floor.”Because Syracuse plays a 2-3 zone, defending Stevens won’t come down to one individual, but how Day anchors the middle of the floor could go a long way in winning the rebounding battle. In three losses this season, SU has been outrebounded by 47.Day said her approach won’t change against bigger players like Stevens in conference play, but she recognizes her positioning has to be even better.“Just move my feet, really just stay active,” Day said of defending bigger players. “That’s all really you can do and not foul.”Against Syracuse as a freshman last year, Stevens scored 12 points and had six defensive rebounds in a 74-72 Duke win, but this year she is even better.The Orange will start conference play with its toughest challenge yet, but Hillsman said he doesn’t plan on changing his defensive strategies, unless he needs to in the middle of the game.“We’re going to play our zone, we’re going to press and we’re going to run,” Hillsman said. “And if we can do that effectively, we’re going to win the basketball game. If we don’t do it, we’re going to struggle.” Comments Published on January 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm Contact Paul: pmschwed@syr.edu | @pschwedslast_img

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