Women's Basketball

Peterson sees jump in minutes, emerges as reliable 3rd-string PG for Syracuse

Chase Gaewski | Managing Editor

Alexis Peterson helped Syracuse come back against Georgia Tech and has shined lately.

Syracuse was down nine with nine minutes to go. It was the largest deficit it had faced all night. After losing three games in a row, a fourth defeat was staring the Orange right in the face.

There was every reason to panic.

But Alexis Peterson didn’t. On the next play she drove to the basket on a fast break and laid the ball in while taking body contact from Georgia Tech’s Dawnn Maye.

Peterson, a freshman, captained a 13-point turnaround Sunday against the Yellow Jackets, and has seen increased minutes from head coach Quentin Hillsman as the season has progressed.

“We have three very good point guards, and it just happened to be my time,” Peterson said. “I was happy that he instilled that trust in me to be able to make the plays down the stretch.”

Peterson’s time has come. Though she often rode the bench in the early part of the season — most times not getting more than garbage minutes — when she’s gotten the opportunity, she’s ran with it. In SU’s last three games she’s averaged 19 minutes, compared to just 8.4 in the 14 games before that. The trend will likely continue when SU (13-5, 2-3 Atlantic Coast) hosts Clemson (9-10, 1-4) at the Carrier Dome on Thursday at 7 p.m.

“I think it’s her comfort,” Hillsman said. “She’s figured out what we want. She’s figured out our system. She’s able to come in and make plays now, and she knows what she’s doing.”

Hillsman said he’s probably talked more about Peterson during press conferences than any player who hasn’t played significant minutes in program history.

Now, he said, she’s earned those minutes. And while starting point guard Rachel Coffey and backup Cornelia Fondren have continued to play solidly at the position, he said Peterson’s play speaks for itself.

“I don’t dictate minutes,” Hillsman said. “Performance dictates minutes. That’s on them. Whoever’s playing well gets the minutes.

“It’s about productivity, it’s about performance, not people.”

Coffey, though, insists it isn’t a competition. She said she tries to help Peterson by giving her tips and pointing out certain things she notices.

“I feel like whoever comes in the game plays good,” Coffey said. “I’m happy for whoever, whether it’s my position or not.
She’s a very good player, she’s stepping up, she’s playing good and that’s what we need.”

Peterson scored a career-high 12 points against No. 6 Maryland on Thursday, then played a career high 22 minutes on Sunday at Pittsburgh. Hillsman said the key is comfort. She was always a talented guard — coming to SU as a four-star recruit and the 92nd overall prospect in the 2013 class, according to HoopGurlz.

It was only a matter of time before she started doing what she came to Syracuse to do.

Having three capable playmakers is a problem that Syracuse wants to have. With Coffey set to graduate after this year, there will be a void at the point guard position that Peterson is being groomed to fill.

And the more she continues to improve, the more she’ll find herself on the court.

Said Hillsman: “Like I tell on media day, and at postgame press conferences, once she gets confident and she gets going she’s going to be an excellent basketball player for us.”

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