Syracuse’s Tiana Mangakahia is a passer one game, a scorer the next

first_imgThree days after Tiana Mangakahia torched Georgia Tech to the tune of a career-high 44 points, then-No. 11 Florida State tried to clamp down on SU’s dynamic point guard.When Mangakahia seemed to slip free of her defender thanks to an on-ball screen, the Seminoles sent help to hedge hard and force the point guard to find an outlet. FSU wasn’t going to let Mangakahia beat them.She still did though, dishing 13 assists, namely to Miranda Drummond, who racked up 38 points and led the Orange to an upset win.“It’s about what we needed,” head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “We needed all 44 points for us to win the game, and she went out and did that. The next game, they kinda sat on her a little harder and she just found her teammates.”Roughly halfway through her inaugural season with Syracuse (14-4, 2-3 Atlantic Coast), Mangakahia has shown an innate ability to flip the switch from scoring to passing. On Jan. 4 against the Yellow Jackets, it was her turn to pile on point after point. Against FSU, she quickly realized she couldn’t be the main scorer and fed Drummond. One way or the other, game by game, Mangakahia can fill whichever role is needed of her.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“When I’m not having a good day,” Mangakahia said, “we can all step up, we can all contribute.”Dan Olson, the director of girlsbasketballreport.com, which is partnered with ESPNW, ranked Mangakahia as the top junior college point guard when she was at Hutchinson Community College. Then, she was entirely pass-first, and Olson called her the “purest of point guards” and a “distributor.”Earlier this season, Mangakahia fit that bill. She started the season with a six-point, 10-assist outing against Morgan State, and didn’t dip below 10 helpers until the ninth game of the season — a 79-39 blowout against Colgate in which Mangakahia played a season-low 28 minutes.Now, though, Mangakahia looks to pass or score based on what she sees from a defense, she said. Against GT, the defense “sagged” when she came off screens. This gave her room to move downhill and attack the basket.Kevin Camelo | Digital Design EditorThree days later, Florida State went out of its way to stop Mangakahia, so she beat them by helping Drummond light it up. Against FSU, the defense dictated Mangakahia’s play, Hillsman said.To slow Mangakahia down, the Seminoles sent an extra defender to the top of the key when she dribbled around a ball screen. If they didn’t show her a double team, the Seminoles hedged the screen hard, slowing Mangakahia enough to let her defender try and fight through the screen.But by choosing to doggedly focus on Mangakahia, the Seminoles left others open.“I did feel like they weren’t letting me get into the lane as much,” Mangakahia said. “… when teams start to take away something, you try something else.”When she is forced into passing, Mangakahia has excelled at making defenses pay — 11 times this season, she has racked up at least 10 assists.Some passes come in the form of drive-and-kicks, when Mangakahia will crash into the lane, causing the defense to collapse and letting her feed an open shooter. In other instances, she’ll bounce a pass to a back-cutting Drummond. When she looks for the bigs down low, Mangakahia will float a lob, letting the lengthy Digna Strautmane or Amaya Finklea-Guity grab it.“I just try and do whatever the defense gives me,” Mangakahia said. “Against Georgia Tech I felt like I could attack them, and I stuck to that.”During a five-game stretch starting in December, Mangakahia failed to eclipse 10 assists in any contest. However, she averaged 24.4 points per game over that span, the most of any Syracuse player.One of those games was a 12-point, nine-assist outing against UNLV on Dec. 22, but the day before, Mangakahia scored 20 against then-No. 5 Mississippi State. A week later, on Dec. 28, she poured in 26 in South Bend, Indiana, when SU faced then-No. 2 Notre Dame.Then, it was 44 against GT. It seemed Mangakahia was poised to continue her hot scoring, to fill it up every game, almost at will.But Florida State decided to slow her scoring, so she decided to pass. Comments Published on January 16, 2018 at 11:27 pm Contact Andrew: aegraham@syr.edu | @A_E_Graham Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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