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Syracuse’s Tiana Mangakahia named WBCA All-American honorable mention

After her final year with Syracuse, fifth year point guard Tiana Mangakahia was named an All-American honorable mention by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association on Monday.

While Mangakahia’s scoring average decreased to 11.4 points per game after a year sidelined with breast cancer, the veteran led the nation — for the second season — with 7.2 assists per game.

“She’s just a really tough kid, every reason to quit and she didn’t quit, she came back and gave it everything she had,” SU head coach Quentin Hillsman said of Mangakahia after Syracuse’s second round loss in the NCAA Tournament to UConn. “I told her, 60% of her is better than 100% of the rest of the country.”

Syracuse relied on Mangakahia to run its offense, both in halfcourt sets and in transition. Hillsman trusted Mangakahia to run set plays or penetrate to the basket. Early in the season, Mangakahia would often drive to the rim, either scoring on a layup, or finding an open teammate in the paint or on the wing.

Before the season began, Mangakahia was named a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given to the top point guard in the country. After typically playing less than 30 minutes per game to start the season as she returned to playing shape, Mangakahia hit her stride once Atlantic Coast Conference play began.

On Jan. 17, Mangakahia recorded her first double-digit assist game of the season against Miami, and from there, she recorded at least 10 assists in six of the next nine games.

Mangakahia was also one of the most consistent scorers on the team, finishing in double figures in eight of her last 10 games played in Orange.

“There’s a lot of days she didn’t feel good, but she didn’t make any excuses,” Hillsman said. “Toughest kid I ever coached.”