first_img Related Stories Syracuse advances to program’s first-ever Sweet 16 with 76-59 win over AlbanyBrittney Sykes turns in vintage performance launching Syracuse into 1st-ever Sweet 16Gallery: Syracuse beats Albany, 76-59, in NCAA tournament Round of 32 matchup Published on March 20, 2016 at 5:46 pm Contact Jon: | @jmettus A chorus of boos erupted in the Carrier Dome as Syracuse center Briana Day readied herself to jog off the court for the final time after fouling out. The discontent only lasted briefly, though, as the fans noticed Bria Day crouching in front of the scorer’s table to check in in her place.More often than not, it was Bria Day, the backup center, on the court instead of her twin sister. Bria Day played a career-high 28 minutes and grabbed 10 rebounds — a season-high and one short of tying her career-high. In No. 4 seed Syracuse’s (27-7, 13-3 Atlantic Coast) 76-59 win over No. 12 seed Albany (28-5, 15-1 America East) on Sunday to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history, Bria Day emerged from her usual backup role and produced one of the most important performances of her career.“Without her in the paint, no chance to win this game,” Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman said. “She was the MVP of this game. I really mean that because she really held it down for us.”Bria Day usually only sees the court to give Briana Day a break for rest or if she’s in foul trouble. On Sunday, it came early as Briana Day picked up two fouls in the first two minutes of the game.She was tasked with a tall order — controlling Albany star Shereesha Richards, who entered the contest ranked sixth in the nation in points per game, and being the center of the zone against a team that shoots few 3s and attacks the paint.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“Bria has been our glue player,” guard Maggie Morrison said. “When Briana gets in foul trouble, Bria comes in. She is just great energy off the bench and there’s no dip.”She was a nuisance for Richards defensively. She didn’t stop her — Richards scored 23 points and had 14 rebounds — but Bria Day slowed her down.She tipped passes intended for Richards, contested shots and most importantly held off until the 2:56 mark in the second quarter when she had already played 15 minutes before getting her first foul.“I didn’t want to come out there and try to do something I’m not or I normally don’t do,” Bria Day said.There were big plays where she didn’t even get credit for a board, like when she smacked a missed shot out to Alexis Peterson, who then buried a 3.By the five-minute mark in the second quarter it hit her. “I was just like, ‘Wow I’m tired,’” Bria Day said, “‘But they were like, ‘you just got to push through it,’ so that’s what I was just trying to do. I think eventually I did get over the hump.”She lasted through halftime, playing the final 18 minutes of the first half and being the only Syracuse player to play the entire second quarter. She had already turned in four rebounds, three points and two blocks to boot.While breaking Albany’s press, Bria Day was the outlet standing in the middle of the court for Peterson and the other guards in trouble. On offense, she sets screens for the guards to run around for open shots in the lane that the Orange ultimately thrived on.“She was tremendous,” Hillsman said. “Gave us a big spark.”When Bria Day found out she played 18 minutes in the first half, she couldn’t believe it. “Oh wow. In the first half?” she responded. “Oh god.” She didn’t realize she had hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds either. It’s not exactly something she’s used to.Coming into the game, Bria Day averaged just 11.4 minutes and 3.3 rebounds per game. For her three-year career so far, her averages dip down to under 10 minutes and under 3 rebounds per game.But on the biggest stage, she surpassed all of that.“Bria is a tough kid,” Hillsman said. “She’s really grown and matured here in our program. Obviously she didn’t play much earlier in her career, but she has made a tremendous jump in her level play … She really stars in her role.” Commentscenter_img Facebook Twitter Google+last_img