SU’s Alexander preps for toughest test of season in Ohio State’s Lavender

first_img Comments Quentin Hillsman’s answer was less than definitive. When asked whether Kayla Alexander is ready to take on Ohio State’s two-time All-American center on Saturday, the Syracuse women’s basketball coach wasn’t entirely certain. ‘I think she is,’ Hillsman said. But he couldn’t say for sure. Saturday the Orange (7-0) and certainly Alexander will face their toughest test of the season in the No. 6 Buckeyes. All eyes will be on the matchup at center between OSU’s (7-0) Jantel Lavender and sophomore center Alexander for SU. Early on this season, Alexander has done nothing but dominate opponents to the tune of 16 points and 8.7 rebounds per game. But she hasn’t faced anyone quite like Lavender, who is the three-time reigning Big Ten Player of the Year. For the first time all season, Alexander will face someone who can match her 6-foot-4-inch frame. For the first time all season, she is not the more talented center on the floor. No longer will she face an opponent three and four inches shorter than her like she did against Delaware State and Cornell.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on December 10, 2010 at 12:00 pm Contact Michael: [email protected] | @Michael_Cohen13 ‘I’m going to have to go out there and play tough,’ Alexander said. ‘I have to play good defense and try to stay in the game.’ And perhaps that truly is the key for Syracuse. Last season, as a freshman, Alexander struggled against the Big East’s most talented center. In a 36-point loss to Connecticut in the Big East tournament, Alexander picked up four fouls in 22 minutes. On the other side of the court, UConn’s Tina Charles went off for 34 points on 16-of-19 shooting from the field. Alexander shot only 3-of-9. The other meeting between the two teams saw a 21-point UConn win in which Alexander scored just six points. ‘(We need to make sure) we’re not putting her in a position where she is down there on an island by herself guarding a first-team All-American,’ Hillsman said. ‘We’re going to play team defense and make sure that when (Lavender) touches it, that we put ourselves in position to where we are able to help her out.’ So far this season, it doesn’t matter what defensive scheme Lavender has faced. Through seven games she’s averaging 25.7 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game. Lavender is coming off a 32-point performance against Oklahoma, a team ranked in the top 15 in the country. Last season, she had four games of 30 points or more. ‘We have to find a way to make her a little uncomfortable when she does catch it and try to keep the ball out of her hands initially,’ Hillsman said. One way Hillsman said his team can make Lavender feel uncomfortable is by making her work on the defensive end of the floor. All season long, SU has looked inside to Alexander on nearly every possession at the start of games. Hillsman said a game like this should be no different. In fact, that should be an even larger focus, he said, and perhaps Lavender will pick up some early fouls. Although Hillsman said he thinks the Lavender and Alexander will cancel each other out with fouls, Saturday’s game might well be decided by which interior player can stay on the floor longer. If it’s Lavender, Syracuse will have to turn to its guards to pick up the bulk of the scoring. In some respects, though, this isn’t so bad for the Orange. In the meeting between OSU and Syracuse two years ago which the Buckeyes won 78-71 in Columbus SU’s Erica Morrow had a huge game. Her 23 points lead the Orange on a night when all-time leading scorer Nicole Michael was held in check. ‘These are the games you look back on once you’re older,’ Morrow said. ‘These are all the type of games that you want to reminisce on.’ If the Orange wants to avenge that loss, Hillsman said the team needs to come through in the game’s closing moments. That loss saw Syracuse miss eight of its final 13 shot attempts and go 1-for-4 from the free-throw line over the final five minutes. This year, that can’t happen. The Orange needs a consistent scoring option to go to if the game is tight down the stretch. In other words, Alexander needs to be on the floor. ‘We’re going to do like we’ve been doing,’ Hillsman said. ‘(And that mans) throwing the ball inside to Kayla and letting her play. ‘We know that we can put her in positions where she can be successful in this basketball game.’ [email protected]last_img

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