The final second of Syracuse’s upset victory against No. 8 Florida State featured two incredible plays.
One of them came direct from an Outback Steakhouse napkin.
After the Orange forced overtime with an unexpected 3-pointer — the team went on a 0-of-14 skid behind the arc until Digna Strautmane sunk two in the final 50 seconds — and ensuing block, it was a back-and-forth final five minutes.
Trailing by one with 17 seconds remaining, Florida State fed the ball into Kiah Gillespie, who pivoted and turned into four Orange defenders but got the shot to fall with around eight-tenths of a second on the clock. It seemed over. But Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman called a timeout, gathered his .500 squad together and metaphorically pulled an inbound play out of his back pocket, he told reporters.
It was one he had written on a napkin at Outback Steakhouse while in Greensboro, North Carolina. He was on a recruiting trip to an AAU tournament with friend and now SU assistant coach Ronnie Enoch.
“I said, ‘We’ll never use this — the truth,’” Hillsman said after the game. “And we used it. We ran it and scored ... that’s the napkin play!
“It’s just one of those deals where you have something in your back pocket. We never ran it before in practice. I drew it up on the fly.”
It was a great play, with perfect execution that gave the Orange (7-6, 1-1 ACC) a 90-89 statement victory at home after a non-conference slate that included a lot of heavy hitters. It also gave the Orange their first win against a top-10 AP ranked opponent since 2016, and three consecutive against Florida State. The Seminoles were off to their best start in program history at 13-0.
Teisha Hyman lobbed in the pass to Emily Engstler on the other side of the basket. Engstler, who had gotten into foul trouble, was all alone and laid in the jump-and-catch bucket that was named the top play on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
''Teisha threw a really good pass and everybody played their role really well,'' Engstler said. ''I jumped and I said, 'I hope to God this goes in' and it went it. It was so simple, but it was literally the only play we could have ran to score that basket. So I was like, all right, let's do it.
''I practice that so much that I should make that every single time I take it. [Hillsman] chose me because I do it a lot. It was a good choice.''
Engstler was so open because the Seminoles zoned in on Kiara Lewis, who ran to the backcourt to draw attention and set the screen on Engstler.
''They ran a great play,” FSU coach Sue Semrau said, via the AP. “We were switching everything and had miscommunication. Early in the season, that's a really good thing to have happen so we can grow from that on the road.''
It almost didn’t happen, though. Hillsman said in his postgame comments that Lewis, who pauses a second before coming up, almost didn’t screen the correct player. He wanted Engstler to make the shot because she’s good at that type of lob and could use her body to block out any player following her.
There has been an increase in unranked opponents defeating ranked opponents this season, though few if any have come on late plays. And likely none has come with a play written on a napkin three years ago, but never used.
With that success rate, the “Outback Special” may be franchised.
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