Alexis Peterson didn't mince any words as she described her team's postseason picture, when talking to the media before facing North Carolina.
"We need all seven of these games and we know that," Peterson said on her team's remaining schedule. "We understand what position we're in."
The Orange (17-7, 7-4) got one step closer to doing just that on Sunday, by beating Georgia Tech, 65-60, in the McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, Ga. Peterson scored 14 points, leading Syracuse in a balanced offensive attack that saw three players score in double figures.
Syracuse's postseason picture was much cloudier when Peterson said the Orange had to win out. Her team had lost two in a row, didn't have a single win over a ranked opponent and held a No. 25 spot in the polls that was starting to look more questionable.
But the Orange validated their tournament resume by beating No. 13/11 North Carolina on Thursday and followed it up by beating the Yellow Jackets for its first road victory since Jan. 22.
A big reason for this win was an improved performance from Brianna Butler, who shot 2-21 against the Tar Heels and has been an ineffective shooter this season. In this game, Butler scored 14 points on 5-11 shooting, the first time she has shot over 40 percent in a game in more than two months.
Butler gave Syracuse an early 10-2 lead with a right corner 3-pointer, taking advantage of a Yellow Jackets offense that only had one field goal in the first six minutes of the game.
Syracuse's zone was relentless for most of the first half and Georgia Tech couldn't find a reliable scoring threat besides Kaela Davis in the early going. Davis scored ten of her team's first 12 points, but didn't get much help until a 8-0 run by the Jackets to end the first half. That cut Syracuse's lead to 35-30 at intermission, after leading by as many as 14 at one point.
The Orange countered with a 15-5 run to open up the second half and carried a comfortable lead until the final buzzer. Syracuse didn't have a very efficient shooting game, but it didn't need to. The mistake-prone Yellow Jackets committed 21 turnovers against the team that leads the ACC in turnover margin. In fact, Syracuse has forced more turnovers on its opponent than it has committed in every game this season but two.
Syracuse has five games remaining on its regular season schedule, all against unranked teams. If Syracuse can win three of those five, it would give the team ten ACC victories, which Quentin Hillsman said last week would guarantee a position in the NCAA Tournament.
"Ten wins, you know you're in," Hillsman said. "Nine wins, you're feeling great. Eight wins, you got garlic in you're sock and horseshoes and all that kind of stuff."