Maeva Djaldi-Tabdi doesn’t care that she had two-straight blocks. On the surface, the 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman showed growth by sticking with the play. Weeks prior against Miami, a team that destroyed Syracuse inside with the high-low play of her forwards, Djaldi-Tabdi seemed a step late each time. One move would free the offensive player, and then it would be a free shot at the hoop. But Sunday, in the Orange’s 96-69 blowout win over the Eagles, Djaldi-Tabdi went straight up. She sent Marnelle Garraud’s first layup attempt back. Boston College grabbed the ball off the miss, and when Taylor Soule went back up to the ball, Djaldi-Tabdi swatted it again, then grabbed the rebound with two hands.The crowd cheered. The bench jumped. SU head coach Quentin Hillsman clapped his hands. The Orange went on a 9-2 run and a possible close game became the blowout it was once primed to be. But after the game, Djaldi-Tabdi dodged the opportunity to credit herself.“No. 11 (Emma Guy) scored 30 points. We shouldn’t be able to give that to someone,” Djaldi-Tabdi said. “So blocks are good, but that’s something we have to work on.”In Syracuse’s (18-5, 7-3 Atlantic Coast) dominant win over the Eagles (14-10, 3-8), the forward and centers unit headlined by Djaldi-Tabdi — who led the group with 16 points on 8-of-12 shooting — showed improvement with its increased intensity on the defensive end and more seamless movement in transition the other way. As SU broke out of its recent shooting slump, the forwards were given more openings on the inside to score. And they did, outscoring the Eagles 52-30 in the paint.Despite 30 points from Guy, the Orange’s defensive unit looked strong down low. Multiple good switches and rotations led to tipped passes and blocked shots. The Orange, who average 4.7 blocks per game as a team, surpassed that mark by the 7:34 mark of the third quarter and finished with six in the game.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I think a lot of it just comes from better positioning on the block and in the paint,” Hillsman said.All season long, the Orange have preached the importance of working the ball inside and getting their bigs going in the context of their offensive efficiency. As the Orange missed 109 threes over their past five games, players and coaches said a constant potential remedy was that more scoring and movement comes through the post players. But Miami proved the Orange have more than just an offensive identity inside. Against a powerful forwards group, SU was exposed for its inability to stick with opponents off the dribble. Against Guy and the Eagles, the Orange started off sloppy. There were a multitude of shooting foul calls on the interior and offensive rebounds bounced in the way of Boston College more often than in any other point of the game, giving second chances and more looks at the free throw line.But the intensity picked up, and SU started to find more ways to work inside. Though Guy scored handily on the inside, Hillsman said a large part of that had to do with the defense of its guards. When a guard got beat on the perimeter, it forced Djaldi-Tabdi and others to play the passing lanes, which made the Orange susceptible to a dump-off pass down low. As the game progressed, the passing lanes grew thinner. Djaldi-Tabdi read the defense and rotated to the left side for a steal in the first half, and in the second half she used her outstretched arms to deflect multiple balls out of bounds.She led a group of bigs that ran well in transition and found herself in the right spots often. She received open passes down low, in transition and on the blocks. As the offense started to exploit the Eagles from the outside, SU pushed the ball inside when it was in need of a bucket. The offensive rebounding picked up — even though Hillsman said at 60-plus percent shooting, there weren’t many to grab — with some aggressive play from Digna Strautmane, who had three of the Orange’s six blocks Sunday. When Djaldi-Tabdi checked out in the third, Strautmane gained a rhythm with six points in the frame.“After the first half they were more focused on the shooters. So, that created more lanes for us to drive,” Miranda Drummond said. “… with our post running the floor in transition, we got a lot of points. Just running the floor.”By the end of the contest, Boston College had the most dominant interior player. But, after the beginning SU’s first conference losing stretch exposed the Orange’s forwards need work, SU left with a feeling of growth.“It’s just about keeping balls alive, touching loose balls,” Hillsman said. “I just thought we did a better job second half of just keeping balls alive and just getting bodies on them.” Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on February 10, 2019 at 5:51 pm Contact Michael: firstname.lastname@example.org | @MikeJMcCleary Comments
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