From press releases -- HARTFORD, Conn. - The No. 24/21 Syracuse women's basketball team advanced to the semifinals of the 2013 BIG EAST Championship with a 61-56 win vs. Villanova at the XL Center on Sunday night. The third-seeded Orange (24-6) will face No. 2 seed Connecticut on Monday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU. The Orange, who led by as much as 15 points, held off the Wildcats in the winding minutes of the game to secure its quarterfinal victory.
Senior Kayla Alexander led the Orange with her 12th double-double of the season and 31st of her career, scoring 34 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. Her 34 points broke Syracuse's BIG EAST Tournament record and tied her career-high. The previous tournament record was 32 points which was set by Beth Record in 2002 against Georgetown. Alexander was two rebounds shy of tying Kristen McCory's SU BIG EAST Tournament record of 17 boards which was set in 1995 against Providence.
"I thought the key in the game was our second half," said head coach Quentin Hillsman. "I thought that in the first half, we did a very good job of recognizing shooters, and I thought the second half we did a better job of contesting. They got some open ones second half but all the ones they got that they shot when we matched up, we did well."
This will be the Orange's first semifinal appearance since 2002, where it suffered a 67-48 loss to Boston College. Overall, it is SU's fifth BIG EAST semifinal berth (1985, 1986, 1988 and 2002). The Orange's No. 3 seed this season is its highest since being No. 1 in 1988 and tied for the second-best in program history with 1986 and 1987.
Senior Elashier Hall scored nine points and grabbed three rebounds. Both freshman Brianna Butler and senior Carmen Tyson-Thomas had seven points and five boards each.
Villanova was 9-for-26 from the 3-point range, while both Rachel Roberts and Taylor Holeman scored 14 points apiece for the Wildcats. The Wildcat's leading scorer, Laura Sweeney, did not play because of a concussion she suffered in the 89-58 win against Georgetown in the second round.
The Orange used a 16-0 run in the first half to take a 12-point lead. The Wildcats came within two points in the final two minutes of the game, but the Orange went 5-for-6 from the free throw line to hold back the Wildcats and advance to the next round.
Syracuse's largest advantage of the game came at 12:39 in the second half when Alexander hit a jump shot to put SU up by 15 points, 45-30.
While the Orange held the lead for most of the game, the Wildcats were the first to pull away with a 12-8 lead at 13:56. Kayla Alexander cut SU's deficit to two points after she put back an offensive rebound. Her layup sparked a 16-0 run that lasted 6:37 and put SU ahead, 24-12. Alexander added 10 points during the run.
The Orange held Villanova scoreless for 7:28 minutes until Emily Leer hit a jump shot, cutting the Orange's lead to 10.
Leading by nine at the half, 32-23, Syracuse used a 10-2 run that started at the end of the first half with Hall's two points and lasted until 15:51 in the second half to pull ahead, 40-25. Alexander contributed six points during the run, while Hall had the other four.
Back-to-back jump shots by Holeman had the Wildcats within nine points, 45-34, at 11:29. Alexander answered with six-straight points to extend SU's advantage to 51-42.
The Wildcats climbed within four points of SU's 51-47 lead after putting together a 10-2 run of their own. At 2:03, a bucket by Caroline Coyer had Villanova within two of SU.
Alexander's layup put SU back on top with four point lead with 1:38. Her basket gave her 32 points in the contest, which tied SU's BIG EAST Tournament scoring record.
Two free throws by Roberts had the Wildcats within four again, 56-52. Alexander and Carmen-Tyson hit both of their free throws, while Coffey hit the back end of hers and Syracuse recorded the 61-56 triumph.
The victory also puts SU at 24-6 for the first time in program history, one game better than the previous best through 30 games of 23-7 in 1980-81.