NCAA women's notes: Syracuse star hurt, might miss game vs. UK

jsmith3@herald-leader.comMarch 22, 2014 

Syracuse might have to face Kentucky on Monday night without its star player.

The Orange, who topped Chattanooga 59-53 on Saturday to win their first NCAA Tournament game in six tries, lost sophomore guard Brittney Sykes to an apparent right knee injury in the first round in Memorial Coliseum.

Sykes was going for a breakaway layup when officials stopped the fast break to call a foul near midcourt. As Sykes was pulling up, she went down screaming and clutching her knee.

After the win, Orange Coach Quentin Hillsman said doctors and trainers had not given him any additional information about the injury. He wasn't clear about when he would know more.

"One of those things where you hope for the best for this kid," Hillsman said of Sykes, who had 13 points and 12 rebounds before the injury with 12:46 left in the game.

Sykes, a second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference player, has started in 32 games for Syracuse this season and is the team's leading scorer (16.7 points) and third-leading rebounder (4.9 boards). She also adds 1.8 assists and 1.5 steals a game.

The McDonald's All-American scored a career-high 31 points versus Virginia Tech on Feb. 6. She has scored in double figures in 14 of the last 15 games.

Sykes was helped off the floor by team support staff and returned to the Orange bench some time later on crutches with ice on her right knee.

Teammate Brianna Butler said the team was shaken up by Sykes' injury, but tried to regroup.

"We immediately got together and said a prayer for her," Butler said. "We came out with the mind-set that we have to win this game for Brittney."

Bishop impresses coach

Kentucky expects big numbers every game from its two senior post players, Samarie Walker and DeNesha Stallworth.

But junior forward Azia Bishop might take Kentucky to new heights, UK Coach Matthew Mitchell said after the Cats' dominant win over Wright State in which Bishop had 10 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots in 19 minutes.

Bishop "really has a chance to transform our team and take it to a different level. If she can continue to play the way she's playing, that's really significant because she has some tremendous gifts."

The junior from Ohio has been practicing well for the past few weeks, Mitchell said.

"I can't tell you how happy I am for her today because she reaped some benefits from some really, really strong practice and she can make a big difference for us," he said.

The junior said she's tried to take notes Mitchell has given her and do the little things right.

"I just tried to do what he asked," Bishop said. "Hopefully I can keep doing that."

'Really, really blown away'

The NCAA Tournament games in Memorial Coliseum weren't a part of the season ticket package and they weren't cheap, so Mitchell wasn't sure what kind of crowd to expect for the first-round games.

The crowd of 5,404 left the UK coach speechless.

"I was just really, really blown away," he said, noting that they were charged up before the game even started. "They were hungry for a day like this and for us to host the NCAA Tournament and I just couldn't be more appreciative of all the folks that showed up today."

The partisan crowd did what it had to do, Goss said.

"They were incredible," she said. "We always have a really good fan base, but just to see all of them, together, cheering. ... That really sparked a lot of energy for us."

Elkins gets NCAA moment

With six seconds left to go in the rout, Wright State called a timeout to get senior guard KC Elkins in the game, her first and only career NCAA Tournament game.

She hobbled onto the floor with a sleeve on her left knee and its recently torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept her from playing.

Teammate Tay'ler Mingo said she was happy to see Elkins walk on her own onto the floor. "Makes you happy and makes you sad at the same time," Mingo said.

Coach Mike Bradbury said he was hoping the game would be more competitive and the Raiders couldn't risk doing it at the end of the game, but once the winner had been decided, it was the right thing to do.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukwomen.bloginky.com.

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