Digna Strautmane is a ‘luxury’ for Syracuse on the offensive end

first_img Published on February 7, 2018 at 10:24 pm Contact Nick: [email protected] | @nick_a_alvarez Digna Strautmane pivoted right and was met with a burgundy-colored jersey. She spun left and found another. With one option remaining, the 6-foot-2 forward straightened up and held the ball over her head.Standing in front of Syracuse’s bench, Quentin Hillsman watched Strautmane squirm and crept toward the play. He beckoned for Strautmane to shoot. With incessant swings at the ball, the Hokies knocked Strautmane down. Hillsman stomped onto the court as soon as he heard the referee’s whistle.It was Feb. 1, and Syracuse was locked in a defensive battle against Virginia Tech. Strautmane led SU in points, but that didn’t save her from Hillsman’s anger. The Orange trailed in the fourth quarter and was en route to its first home loss of the season. After the game, head coach Quentin Hillsman called his team “indecisive” in crucial moments. This was one of them.Aside from a few hesitant moments, SU’s freshman forward has stood out in recent weeks. Strautmane has won the conference Rookie of the Week award twice. She hasn’t scored single-digits points since Jan. 18 against Miami. In her last four games, she’s posted point totals of 16, 25, 20 and 22. This increased production comes after a four-game stretch in which she scored 17 points total.Syracuse has gone 2-2 in those games and ranks eighth in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Hillsman said SU’s five remaining conference games are all “urgent” if SU wants to comfortably make the NCAA Tournament. The Orange (17-7, 5-6 ACC) will need Strautmane to further her development and continue executing if it looks to roll through the final stretch of its conference gauntlet, which starts against Wake Forest (11-13, 3-7) on Feb. 11.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Digna is adjusting to the speed of the game,” said Vonn Read, SU’s associate head coach. “We play a little bit faster than they do over there, so she’s having an adjustment with that. She’s getting better every single day. I think you’re seeing that on the court.”“Over there” is Europe, where Strautmane played for multiple youth-level Latvian national teams. Most college freshmen need to acclimate from the high school game to college. Strautmane has had to tweak her style of play to fit into a different country’s “toughest conference,” Hillsman said.Paired with fellow freshman Amaya Finklea-Guity, Strautmane has also needed to adjust without an upperclassman center to guide the youthful froncourt. SU graduated four starters. and one of the few returners who had post experience, Desiree Elmore, hasn’t dressed for a game this season.“She’s growing into her role and understanding that we have to have her score consistently in order to put up a good fight,” ” said guard Isis Young.Anna Henderson | Digital Design EditorStrautmane’s offensive hot-streak isn’t the product of a single shot or play. Hillsman defined her style of play, the ability to shoot and drive, as a “luxury” earlier in the season. Strautmane possess a catch-and-shoot jumper, but she can also break down defenders off the dribble and work her way inside like a guard.In nonconference games, SU was led by Tiana Mangakahia and Miranda Drummond. In recent weeks, teams have keyed in on Drummond and severely limited her impact. Drummond, a redshirt-junior, has scored 25 points total in her last three games. She is averaging 15.3 per game this season.As Drummond’s production has dipped, Strautmane has become an integral piece of SU’s offense.Sometimes, the Orange will call set plays to give the 6-foot-2 forward a wide-open 3-pointer. One such play occurred against Virginia Tech. In the third quarter, with SU down four, Mangakahia drove right and used a Finklea-Guity screen to gain separation on the right wing. While two defenders readied for the impending pick-and-roll play, Strautmane flashed to the top of the 3-point arc, caught a pass and launched a deep ball.Another common SU play features two guards and a forward flanking the 3-point line, a big standing in the high post and Strautmane jogging along the baseline. Through a string of passes, Strautmane will react to the defense and find an empty corner for a wide-open 3.“Digna has been fantastic,” Hillsman said earlier this season. “She’s been playing really well for us, she can play three positions.”Strautmane’s increased production has come in the moments when she hasn’t hesitated to take a shot or debated whether to drive inside. In her last three games, she has taken 56 shots, her highest three-game total this season. Half of those attempts have been 3s, which is in line with SU’s 3-point reliance in conference play. Since the Miami contest, she’s raised her points-per game total from 8 to 10.1.Even when Strautmane recorded 22 points against then-No. 4 Louisville — an eventual 84-77 loss — on 9-for-20 shooting, she admitted that she needed to drive more. In the fourth quarter, as SU mounted a failed comeback, Strautmane caught an inbounds pass, faked a handoff to Mangakahia, spun around two defenders and laid the ball in off the glass.“Coaches are working with me,” Strautmane said after an 18-point win against Pittsburgh on Jan. 21. “I’m trying to get better. I hope it’s going to get better.”It has, and Syracuse will need it to continue. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more