Syracuse Orange point guard Tiana Mangakahia confirmed she will enter the 2021 WNBA draft, making Sunday's matchup against No. 2-ranked NC State her final game at the Dome.
It was also the Orange's Play4Kay game and both teams guaranteed it was a special final outing for Mangakahia, a breast cancer survivor and warrior. The Wolfpack honored her with a special trophy ahead of the game in a basketball connection that will last a lifetime.
Syracuse nearly pulled the upset in a close contest throughout. NC State prevailed late, 68-61.
NC State honors Syracuse star in Play4Kay game
The Wolfpack honored Mangakahia ahead of the game with a personalized trophy. It reads, "Adversity doesn't build character. It reveals it." The quote is from former NC State coach Kay Yow.
The Play4Kay game is part of the national movement to fight women's cancers and benefits the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. The foundation is for Yow, who battled stage 4 breast cancer on-and-off for 22 years. She died in 2009.
Both teams wore pink uniforms with pink accessories and specialized warm-up shirts. Syracuse players and coach Quentin Hillsman — decked out in pink-embellished Nikes — wore face masks that read "I wear pink for Tiana."
Syracuse was initially scheduled to hold its Play4Kay game earlier this month against Louisville, but a COVID-19 pause in that program forced the reschedule. It was worth it for the meaningful connection the programs will forever have.
Mangakahia returns to basketball form after cancer
Mangakahia, 26, was one of the nation's best point guards alongside current New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu when she was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after announcing her return to Syracuse in July 2019.
The Australian native was declared cancer free in November 2019, but did not return to play with the Orange until this season though she was on the bench with her team as support. While she was away from the court, ACC teams sent her well wishes and special videos on social media in a show of support.
Mangakahia returned this past November after 615 days between games. She leads the conference by a large margin in assists per game at 7.6. She's one of the game's best passers and is a projected WNBA draft pick. Against the Wolfpack, she had 10 points, five rebounds and three steals.
Syracuse (12-6, 9-6) is currently fourth in the ACC standings and will have the double-bye in the conference tournament. The Orange have a solid tournament resume but could have used a signature victory. Making it close against the No. 2 Wolfpack will still look good for the committee, which releases its second top-16 reveal later Sunday.
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