As Syracuse’s Tuesday practice came to an end and its players dispersed for various interview responsibilities, head coach Quentin Hillsman sat in a chair on the baseline of a far practice court alongside guard Diamond Henderson.
Wearing a hoodie and sweatpants with a black brace over her left leg, Henderson sat still while her teammates spoke excitedly about the potential of avenging regular-season losses against Notre Dame and Duke, and about their readiness for the postseason. It didn’t look like Henderson or Hillsman said much, if anything at all.
Moments later, Hillsman announced Henderson had torn her left ACL against Clemson last Thursday and would not play during the postseason. No. 22 Syracuse (21-8, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) will now look for others to step up, whether it be its reserves or starters, when it starts ACC tournament play on Thursday at 11 a.m. in Greensboro, North Carolina against Wake Forest (12-19, 2-14).
“We always talk about being able to go deep into our bench,” Hillsman said. “I guess this is when our depth will be tested and we’ll see how deep we really are.”
Henderson, who transferred to SU from Tennessee Tech before this year, was SU’s most productive reserve guard this season. The senior averaged 21.5 minutes and 10.5 points per game, which ranks third on the team.
On Jan. 29 in a 78-58 loss to then-No.8 Louisville, Henderson led SU with 20 points — 10 more than any other Orange player. SU’s second-leading scorer that day, forward Taylor Ford, also came off the bench.
Though Ford hasn’t started a game this season, the forward averages eight more minutes than starter Isabella Slim. And in the Orange’s win over then-No. 13 North Carolina on Feb. 5, Ford sank a 3-pointer to give SU a 49-42 lead 7:22 to play, and then made another to extend SU’s lead to seven with 2:02 to go.
Outside of Henderson, the only other reserve guard to see meaningful minutes this season has been Maggie Morrison, who averages 10.2 minutes a game and has only eclipsed five points in a game twice during conference play. But on Jan. 11 against Virginia, Morrison knocked down four 3s in the closing minutes of the first half and played lockdown defense in the final minutes of regulation, helping SU secure a 70-58 victory.
“I’ve just got to come in and step up,” Morrison said. “Make plays, knock down shots. If I get the chance, I’ve just got to take it and be ready.”
Henderson’s scoring production will most likely be picked up by SU’s starters rather than the reserves, though. SU’s most-often used starting lineup of Butler, Slim, Alexis Peterson, Cornelia Fondren and Briana Day has scored 68 percent of the team’s points this season.
“I don’t think (Diamond not playing) puts any pressure on any of us,” guard Brianna Butler said. “ … We have a lot of people who can step up. Taylor has had big games for us. Bria Day stepped up when Briana (Day) wasn’t in. We just have other players who can step up into those roles.”
Peterson and Bria Day, both sophomores, could shoulder the burden. Peterson averaged 15.1 points and 4.3 assists a game this season, and Bria Day averaged a double-double, with 10 points and 10.9 rebounds.
On Tuesday, Peterson talked about how prepared SU is for potential ACC and NCAA tournament runs.
But they’re runs Henderson won’t be a part of.
“We always say that we’re going to play for each other,” Peterson said. “We look forward, I’m sure, to people coming off the bench or excited for the opportunity. We’ll all do what we have to do to get this win.”
Published on March 5, 2015 at 12:40 am
Contact Josh: email@example.com