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Syracuse women’s basketball: the Orange survive slow start, sneak by Le Moyne 73-70

The first “win” of the Felisha Legette-Jack era is in the books.

NCAA Womens Basketball: ACC Tournament-Clemson at Syracuse William Howard-USA TODAY Sports

At long last, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team is officially back in action.

The Orange returned to the court for the first time since March 2nd in an exhibition matchup against the Le Moyne Dolphins at the JMA Wireless Dome.

The biggest story of Thursday night’s game was former Buffalo Bulls head coach Felisha Legette-Jack making her debut at the helm for the Orange. Legette-Jack took the floor along with ten new members of the Syracuse women’s team.

Entering the Orange’s only exhibition game before the season began, the team took on Division II’s Le Moyne Dolphins, led by former Syracuse assistant Mary Grimes. The Dolphins finished 17-8 overall and 14-5 in the Northeast-10 Conference last season, clinching a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Coach Legette-Jack’s starting lineup against Le Moyne was Dyaisha Fair (G), Teisha Hyman (G), Alaina Rice (G), Dariauna Lewis (F), and Asia Strong (F).

Both teams started off hot out of the gate, combining to make six of the first seven shots attempted. Hyman kicked things off for the Orange with the team’s first basket, a pull-up jumper along the left side. Two plays later, Hyman showed her long-range ability with a quick catch-and-shoot three.

But from there, the Orange cooled off on the scoring front, going just 5/24 overall from the field and 1/9 from three in the first quarter as Syracuse trailed Le Moyne 19-13.

The Orange quickly regained their groove after beginning the second quarter with a 15-3 run thanks to some baskets from Strong, a three-pointer from Ross, and a transition layup from Fair.

After trailing early, Syracuse led Le Moyne 35-34, with Strong’s 15 points leading the way for the Orange.

Both teams traded baskets to begin the third quarter, with Teisha Hyman stepping up again to keep the Orange afloat.

Syracuse struggled to get much going beyond the arc, but the team focused on attacking the basket, running in transition, and aiming for second-chance opportunities.

Towards the end of the third, Syracuse regained momentum and took a 54-47 lead thanks to Fair’s playmaking and the team crashing the offensive glass against a smaller Le Moyne lineup.

The Orange entered the fourth quarter with their largest lead of the night. Both teams continued to go back and forth, especially Le Moyne’s guards from behind the arc. Le Moyne switched from a man to a zone defense, with Syracuse following minutes later with a zone scheme of their own. The Dolphins’ hot shooting from three kept Le Moyne in the matchup despite efforts by the Orange to extend the lead, despite Fair heating up with back-to-back threes after a slow start.

Syracuse eventually pulled away in the end despite a late 6-0 run from the Dolphins, notching a 73-70 victory over Le Moyne and securing Coach Legette-Jack’s first win as head coach for the Orange.

Four players scored in double-figures for Syracuse, with Dyaisha Fair leading the team with 19 points on 19 shots in her debut for the Orange. Strong, Lewis, and Hyman contributed 12+ points each for ‘Cuse. Dariuana Lewis, another transfer making her debut for the Orange, chipped in 13 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks in 26 minutes of action. As for the Dolphins, the team was led by Sydney Lusher (17 points, 5/6 from three) and Sierra Linnin (15 points, 8 rebounds, 4/10 from three) in a losing effort.

It wasn’t pretty, but Syracuse came away with the win.

Syracuse vs. Le Moyne by the numbers:

  1. The Orange and the Dolphins tied the game six different times and exchanged the lead 12 times.
  2. Syracuse was +22 on the offensive glass and +27 in total rebounds.
  3. ‘Cuse was cold as ice from downtown, only shooting 5/27 (18.5%) compared to Le Moyne’s 11/25 (44%) from three.
  4. The starters were essentially the only ones generating offensive for Syracuse. The team got just six points off the bench compared to 25 from Le Moyne.
  5. While the Orange struggled from three, they did make up for it down low, outscoring the Dolphins by 18 points in the paint and nine in second-chance opportunities.

Biggest Takeaways of the Game:

The Fair-Hyman backcourt has tremendous upside: As advertised, the Dyaisha Fair and Teisha Hyman pairing led the offense. Together, the Orange can put together a lineup with multiple elite shot creators. In a staggered rotation, as seen against Le Moyne, each can take a turn running the offense while the other rested. Given Hyman’s quietly good 2021-2022 season, adding Fair will take away pressure from Hyman to generate enough points.

Poor interior finishing: The Orange grabbed rebounds and slashed inside, but couldn’t turn those advantages into points. Way too many points were left on the table.

Bad from three, but excellent from mid-range: Although the final three-point percentage from Thursday night’s game looks dreadful, Syracuse made up for it by capitalizing from mid-range. In particular, Dariuana Lewis and Asia Strong put in solid efforts, creating enough space by keeping the defenses honest (especially at the top of the key)

The paint defense is improved but (still) needs some work: The numbers don’t tell the whole story, but especially in the first and third quarters, the Orange gave up way too many easy shot opportunities near the paint. Fortunately, Syracuse limited Le Moyne to one-and-done possessions. The frontcourt rotation looked significantly better compared to last year’s under-sized team.

Syracuse struck gold with their transfer players: Dyaisha Fair, although inefficient, still looked great as a playmaker, slasher, and off-the-ball defender. Dariuana Lewis chipped in a pretty good statistical performance. Asia Strong was aggressive on both ends of the court, giving the Orange some much-needed energy. Kyra Wood gave the team a spark off the bench. Legette-Jack should feel pretty happy about this transfer class.

Next game on the agenda:

After competing in their only exhibition game, Syracuse will open its season against Stony Brook on Monday, November 7th at the JMA Wireless Dome. Last season, Stony Brook finished 23-6 overall and 14-4 in the Colonial Athletic Conference. This will be the first time the Syracuse women’s basketball team will play Stony Brook since November 2020, when the Orange defeated the Seawolves 50-39.