If Syracuse is to earn its first NCAA tournament win, it will have to end a very long winning streak in the process.
The No. 6 Orange seek that elusive victory Saturday when they face a red-hot Chattanooga squad in the Notre Dame regional in Lexington, Ky.
A Syracuse (22-9) win would mark its first in six attempts in the tournament. The Orange have come close in their last two trips, including a 61-56 loss to Creighton last spring. ''Last year, it was our first year (back) and we were excited,'' guard Rachel Coffey said. ''This year, we are focused on winning a game.''
This is the second straight tournament appearance for Syracuse, and third in eight years under coach Quentin Hillsman. The Orange lost to Hartford as a No. 7 seed in 2008 in their first tournament appearance under Hillsman.
Sophomore Brittney Sykes leads the Orange with 16.7 points per game and fellow guard Brianna Butler is the only other player averaging in double figures with 14.6.
While Syracuse enters this matchup having won four straight and five of six, those runs pale in comparison to Chattanooga's 25-game win streak. The Lady Mocs have been perfect since dropping back-to-back games to Minnesota and Hawaii on Nov. 29 and 30.
Chattanooga, though, is 1-11 all-time in the NCAA tournament, falling 73-59 to Nebraska in the opening round last season. The Lady Mocs have lost six in a row in the tournament since beating Rutgers in 2004.
''We know that this is a bigger stage, a different type of game,'' Lady Mocs forward Taylor Hall said. ''(The Orange) present some challenges we haven't faced before, so that is something new for us. It's nice to be on a streak like that, just (having) some momentum behind us.''
First-year Chattanooga coach Jim Foster becomes the only coach in NCAA history to take four different schools to the NCAA tournament after guiding St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State previously. Foster, inducted last June into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, is 812-310 in 36 seasons.
Taylor Hall is the key to the Mocs' offense. The senior forward leads the team in scoring (14.9 points per game), rebounding (8.6 rpg) and assists (4.4 apg). The Southern Conference Player of the Year is shooting 42.3 percent overall and 33.8 percent from 3-point range.
Senior forward Ashlen Stewart adds 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per contest.
One of the keys to Chattanooga's success is its discipline, as it averages only 12.8 turnovers and commits the ninth-fewest fouls in the nation (14.8).
This will be the first meeting between the schools.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the Wright State-Kentucky game in the second round on Monday.
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