first_img Published on November 29, 2017 at 11:06 pm Contact Billy: wmheyen@syr.edu | @Wheyen3 On Nov. 24, Tiana Mangakahia broke Syracuse’s 35-year-old single-game assist record in her fifth game in the program.She assisted on 17 baskets, breaking Libby McNulty’s record of 15 assists, an accomplishment that McNulty did twice — most recently in 1982. Yet, Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman thought Mangakahia could have had more assists.“It’s funny, I watched the game and said she could have had 21, 22 assists, easy,” Hillsman said. “People dropping a few passes and (missing) a few shots they wouldn’t normally miss. But she’s definitely a very gifted passer and she’s finding her teammates very well.”Mangakahia has played six games at Syracuse (6-0) since transferring from Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College, and she’s accumulated double-digit assists each game. In the last five, she’s also reached double-digit point totals, giving her five-consecutive double-doubles. When Northwestern (5-2) enters the Carrier Dome on Thursday to play SU in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, it will do so behind its own impressive new point guard, freshman Jordan Hamilton, who averages 34.3 minutes and five assists per game.After not playing in official games during her two years at Hutchinson due to eligibility issues, Mangakahia has quickly become Syracuse’s floor general. Her 11.8 assists per game ranks first in the country and her 17-assist single game is best in the nation this year.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“She has really made a great transition from not playing to being, I think, one of the top point guards in the country,” Hillsman said. “She’s a tough guard and she’s really tough to keep in front of you.”A native of Meadowbrook, Australia, near Brisbane, Mangakahia said that the basketball in Australia focuses on half court play. But at Syracuse, Hillsman often has his team run a full-court press. He wants his players to get up and down the floor and hoist up plenty of shots.“This is the style of play that I love,” Mangakahia said. “I love pushing the ball and looking ahead.”Andy Mendes | Digital Design EditorOne of the players Mangakahia finds often is Miranda Drummond, a wing in her first season playing for SU after transferring from St. Bonaventure. On defensive rebounds by her teammates, Drummond shoots up one of the wings and Mangakahia frequently feeds long chest passes to her new teammate for wide open looks. The connection of Mangakahia and Drummond, though, might show itself best when Mangakahia is forced to slow down and play in the half court.In the first half against Hartford on Nov. 20, Mangakahia got an edge on her defender and drove left. As help-side defense collapsed on her, Drummond, positioned near the left corner, cut backdoor right to the basket. Mangakahia found her and Drummond laid the ball in. In the second half, Mangakahia dribbled more toward the left wing and Drummond once more cut backdoor from that side of the floor. Mangakahia dished to the forward as Drummond finished for an and-1.Mangakahia doesn’t remember playing as strong a stretch of basketball in Australia as she is now at SU.“I think I’m doing really well,” Mangakahia said. “Before I was playing back home I was doing well, but not this good.”Having a pass-first point guard has also allowed Syracuse’s freshman center, Amaya Finklea-Guity, to find easy baskets inside. Hillsman called Finklea-Guity an “eight foot and in” player on Tuesday, but she doesn’t need to step further from the basket with Mangakahia setting her up. The 6-foot-4 Finklea-Guity has shown an affinity for running the floor and beating her matchup to the basket. Mangakahia frequently lobs the ball over the top of the defense into the hands of Finklea-Guity for easy layups.“If I work hard, I know she’s working hard,” Finklea-Guity said. “And if she sees me working hard she’s gonna pass it to me and I’m gonna get rewarded.”Mangakahia has played at least 34 of the 40 minutes of game time in five of Syracuse’s six games. While on the floor, the Orange offense almost always runs through her. Including the time she hasn’t been on the floor, Mangakahia has 71 assists on 172 Syracuse field goals, 41.3 percent of its baskets. That’s even with her on the bench for 44 minutes of possible made Syracuse buckets this season.It’ll be Mangakahia’s show Thursday night as she seeks her sixth-straight double-double and seventh-straight double-digit assist game.As his point guard racks up big numbers to start the season, Hillsman said that he’s been yelling more at Mangakahia because “the better she gets the better I want her to play.” But he knows his offense is in good hands.“She’s a true point guard,” Hillsman said. “I try to leave her alone and let her play her game and do what she’s been doing.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img