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Syracuse women’s basketball: the Orange lose 87-78 to Purdue despite late-game comeback

Syracuse couldn’t quite get the job done on the road.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Undefeated at home, winless on the road.

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (5-1) took on the Purdue Boilermakers (6-1) as the team looked to secure its first win against the Big Ten Conference. Earlier this year, the Orange fell in double-digits to the Penn State Lady Lions on the road after leading the game by as much as 21 points.

This time around, it would be Syracuse making a late-game push in the second half.

In Wednesday evening’s matchup against Purdue, coach Felisha-Legette Jack used a starting lineup of Dyaisha Fair (G), Teisha Hyman (G), Georgia Woolley (G), Dariuana Lewis (F), and Asia Strong (F).

The Orange were down by as much as 21 points during the contest, Poor shooting and too many isolation possessions in the second quarter resulted in a 24-11 scoring advantage for the Boilermakers. On defense, ‘Cuse gave up too many easy points both in transition and in the paint.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

While the offense was stagnant, the biggest story for the Orange was Teisha Hyman putting the team on her back in the second half. Hyman played the entire game, finishing with a season-high 26 points on 11/23 shooting from the field.

Down 18 heading into the 4th quarter, Syracuse pull off a little bit of a comeback of its own, cutting the lead to as low as five points with just minutes remaining in what became a fast-paced, up-tempo game for both offenses. Some hot shooting from Asia Strong and Dyaisha Fair got the Orange close but ultimately couldn’t get the team over the hump.

Purdue led the way with a balanced scoring attack, with seven different players making at least two field goals. Lasha Petree led the way for the Boilermakers with 31 points and kept her foot on the gas throughout the game.

Overall, Syracuse was able to shut down Purdue’s three-point game but ended the contest giving up 54 points in the paint as the Orange didn’t get enough stops when it mattered most.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Despite the comeback, Syracuse (5-2) now has two straight losses on the road as the Orange were defeated by the Boilermakers 87-78. Just six players scored for the Orange, with Hyman, Strong, and Fair combining for 60 of the team’s 78 points in the losing effort.

Outside of Hyman, Syracuse’s guards struggled to heat up against Purdue's defense, with Fair (4/18 shooting) and Georgia Woolley (2/9 shooting) couldn’t get a groove going. As for the team, coach Legette-Jack got just three total points from the Orange’s bench in this matchup.

After beginning the season 4-0, Syracuse drops two of its last three games, albeit against some pretty talented non-conference opponents.

There’s a lot to unpack from this game, so let’s get right to the analysis.

Syracuse vs. Purdue by the numbers:

  1. As a team, Purdue shot over 54% from the field, which is the highest field goal efficiency given up by Syracuse’s defense this season.
  2. Not to belabor with the defense again, but the Boilermakers shot a scorching 16/25 combined in the second and third quarters.
  3. Hyman’s 26 points against Purdue is the most by her so far this season.
  4. Syracuse’s three bench points are the lowest produced by the Orange’s non-starters this year.
  5. Despite the inefficient performance, the game against Purdue marks the seventh-straight game Fair has scored in double-figures for the Orange.

Biggest Takeaways of the Game:

Don’t feel down just yet: If there’s anything to take away from the game, it’s that Syracuse can play competently against good teams. Both Penn State and Purdue are quality opponents who both have strong records and good players. Even if both matchups turned into losses, it’s a major difference compared to last season, where the Orange flat-out couldn’t compete against some of the bigger-name programs.

The Orange have a talented team that just needs some time on its end. Only Hyman and Alaina Rice are the only returning players getting quality minutes for the team. Other than that, it’s a mix of transfer players from different colleges across the country who still need more reps on the court to gel.

It wasn’t the prettiest game, and yet Syracuse hung around and make things interesting. The season is still early, and it’s safe to say coach Legette-Jack will continue to get the team to compete, even in a losing effort.

Concerns with the bench: Is the team a little too reliant on Fair and Hyman to put up points? In all honesty, Hyman and Fair are putting up good numbers and making a legitimate impact on the court. It’s hard to not keep the ball in their hands, especially with both starting to heat up the past 2-3 games.

The real concern is the lack of scoring outside of the Fair-Hyman backcourt. Woolley is a quality starter but has struggled with efficiency and banking on her three-point shot. Strong’s scoring punch waxes and wanes depending on the day.

And then, there’s the bench, which combined for just three points on 1/6 shooting. If Syracuse wants to get through the entire season, someone has to emerge off the Orange’s bench and prove to be a capable microwave scorer.

Shutting down the paint: Syracuse focused on locking down Purdue’s three-point looks, and while that strategy worked, it led to more opportunities for easy shots around the basket. Purdue was on fire on the offensive end for most of the game, even as the team began to cool off in the fourth quarter.

The Orange gave up its highest-scoring games against its Big Ten opponents. I expect opponent shooting to regress a bit, but the team has to step up on defense. Against the ACC, giving up 80-plus points won’t be an option if the team is looking to consistently win.

Next game on the agenda:

Syracuse will stay on the road in a matchup against the Yale Bulldogs (4-4) Sunday afternoon, as the Orange will look to secure its first road win of the season. Yale currently sits at 5th in the Ivy League Conference. Last season, the Bulldogs were 16-11 overall and 9-5 in its conference.

Despite the loss, optimism is still in the air. Unlike last season, the Orange can survive against some of the NCAA’s best, and for this program, that’s a huge step in the right direction.