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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for vs. Bucknell

The Orange look to return to the win column back at home.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Syracuse at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a second-half collapse against Penn State on the road, it must feel good for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team to return back to the 315.

The Orange (4-1) suffered a disappointing 13-point loss to the Lady Lions after Syracuse went up by as much as 21 points in the contest. With the team having (hopefully) put the loss aside, it’s on to the next one for ‘Cuse.

The women’s team will look to get back to its winning ways against the Bucknell Bison on Friday night at the JMA Wireless Dome, with tip-off set for 7 pm. The game will also be streamed on ACCNX via ESPN+.

Syracuse will look to go 5-0 at home to begin the year before the team travels for back-to-back road games against Purdue and Yale.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Stony Brook at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Entering the contest, the Bison sit at 2-3 on the season and 6th in the Patriot League Conference, coming off back-to-back wins against Cornell and Iona. In 2021-2022, Bucknell finished 24-10 overall and 12-6 in the Patriot League. Last season, the Bisons defeated the Buffalo Bulls under then-head coach Felisha Legette-Jack.

With the Orange looking to bounce back at home, here is what to watch for in Syracuse’s matchup versus Bucknell.

Question #1: Can Syracuse cut down on giving up easy points for opponents?

Against Penn State, the Orange simply gave up too many free-bee point opportunities across the board. The Lady Lions took advantage of Syracuse’s sloppy play and extra turnovers in the second half, outscoring the Orange 28-10 in points off of turnovers. ‘Cuse started off this season as a fastbreak team, but against Penn State, the Orange were also outscored in that department by 12 points. To compound things even further, the Lady Lions held advantages in both free throw attempts, second-chance points, and rebounds by decent margins.

In general, Syracuse shot itself in the foot against the Lady Lions, and the math wasn’t in favor of the Orange.

Now to be fair, if there was any game to have a full-blown meltdown in, better early in the season rather than later. It’s an early-season lesson for this Syracuse squad. It was also the Orange’s first game against Power 5 competition and, unlike last season, the team had the energy and could’ve won this game. That’s already a great starting place given how ‘Cuse fared last season against P5 opponents.

The Orange can easily bounce back against Bucknell if the team can set the pace and limit the turnovers on its end.

Question #2: Does Felisha Legette-Jack return to an expanded rotation?

For the first time this season against Penn State, coach Legette-Jack really limited who was on the court and for how long. Starters Dyaisha Fair, Aisa Strong, and Alaina Rice all played north of 35 minutes against the Lady Lions. Based on the last game, part of the problem was that the starters were too fatigued once the fourth quarter came around. But in basketball, it’s a give-and-take game. Penn State went on a huge run in the second half, so you can’t blame coach Legette-Jack for keeping the starters out there.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Stony Brook at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Against Bucknell, expect Kyra Wood, Saniaa Wilson, and Nyah Wilson to play way more after they all combined to play in just 17 minutes against the Lady Lions.

Question #3: Are the Orange finally showing signs of life from three?

There were many negatives for the Orange in its last game, but the one positive was that the team is finally showing some life from beyond the arc.

Overall, Syracuse was 9/25 (36%) from three against Penn State. The Orange made as many threes in the first quarter against the Lady Lions (5) as the team had in any game to begin this season. In particular, Rice is coming off of a 3/7 performance from three.

If the Orange can space the floor more, it opens up the driving lanes that Fair and Teisha Hyman can take advantage of. Given the lack of general three-point specialists on this team, even if Syracuse can survive from beyond the arc, that would be enough as this season continues.