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Syracuse women’s basketball: ball movement, paint dominance guide Orange to 83-53 victory over Wagner

The Orange continue getting the job done against other New York programs.

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

It was an absolutely scorching-hot performance by the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team in its Sunday afternoon matchup with the Wagner Seahawks.

Syracuse (7-2) entered the contest coming off back-to-back wins against Yale and Coppin State, while Wagner (4-4) looked to return back to above-.500.

In Sunday afternoon’s matchup against Wagner, coach Felisha-Legette Jack used the same starting lineup that made its debut in the Orange’s last game versus Coppin State: Dyaisha Fair (G), Teisha Hyman (G), Georgia Woolley (G), Alaina Rice (G), and Dariuana Lewis (F).

The Orange shot lights out from tip-off, finishing the first quarter with a 27-12 lead thanks to a 9/17 team performance from the field to begin the game. From the jump, Syracuse focused entirely on attacking the rim, forcing Wagner into some early fouls, and setting the tone early. The Orange finished the first quarter with no made jump shots but ended up with 18 points in the paint and 10 trips to the foul line (with nine makes) in the game’s first 10 minutes.

Lewis and bench forward Saniaa Wilson combined for 25 points and 13 rebounds in the first half, with the Orange going up 45-23 against the Seahawks after two quarters of play.

The story of the night was Syracuse’s ability to not only take an early lead but establish a strong tempo fright from tip-off. Although the Orange let up a bit in the third quarter, the team never looked back en route to an eventual 30-point victory against Wagner.

It was a balanced scoring attack against the Seahawks, with all 13 players that suited up in Sunday afternoon’s contest scoring at least two points. The Orange moved the ball well and were able to get out into transition opportunities for most of the game, tallying up 17 fastbreak points in the winning effort. When that didn’t work, Syracuse was able to clean things up inside, finishing with a plus-14 differential in second-chance points and dropping 52 points in the paint in the contest.

Ultimately, Syracuse (8-2) remains undefeated at home after beating Wagner (4-5) 83-53. The Orange were led by the paint dominance of Lewis (13 points and 12 rebounds), Wilson (13 points and 9 rebounds in 14 minutes), and Asia Strong (9 points and 6 rebounds in 16 minutes). Fair and Hyman combined for 16 points on 6/25 shooting overall, but both were better than plus-20 rating on the court. Wagner was held to just 31% shooting and 4/19 from three in the losing effort.

It was a productive, informative night for the Orange. Here are some of the biggest things to take away from Syracuse’s win over Wagner:

Syracuse vs. Wagner by the numbers:

  1. Syracuse led for the entire game, making its strongest runs in the second and fourth quarters.
  2. The fastbreak offense was legit against Wagner, with the Orange forcing the Seahawks into 25 turnovers that generated 17 fastbreak points.
  3. The Orange converted on its trips to the foul line on Sunday, with the team making 18 of its 22 free throw attempts.
  4. Syracuse now moves to 5-0 against New York State women’s college basketball opponents.
  5. It was a democracy when it came to playing time against Wagner. Other than Fair (29 minutes) and Hyman (26 minutes), no player suited up for more than 21 minutes against the Seahawks.

Biggest Takeaways of the Game:

Lineup versatility shines for the Orange: We'll get to the combined performance of the Fair-Hyman backcourt, but you have to love the production Syracuse got from the entire team tonight. Coach Legette-Jack used the dominant win as an opportunity to experiment with different lineups. There were times when Wilson was the sole post player down low, while other times the Orange ran both Strong and Lewis together on the court.

The guard supporting cast was the other highlight of the contest. Cheyenne McEvans finished with 8 points on 4/5 shooting in 21 minutes off the bench. Alaina Rice was perfect from the floor against Wagner. Woolley chipped in 7 points. Even reserve Ava Irvin scored a bucket and dished out an assist in her handful of minutes against the Seahawks.

Compared to last season, optionality reigns supreme with this year’s edition of Syracuse women’s basketball.

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

The high-pressure defense is getting results: We still need to see a larger sample size against some more competitive opponents, but Syracuse has the potential to at least be competent on defense this season. Against the ACC, dominating the paint and controlling the glass remain absolutely critical against opponents whose physicality and toughness might be a tough matchup for the Orange.

On paper, the defense is at least meeting coach Legette-Jack’s expectations: high-ball pressure, extra help inside, forcing teams to make their threes, and causing turnovers along the perimeter. It’s a feisty team that will at least give it one-hundred percent the entire game. Compared to last year, that’s already enough of an improvement.

The offense is more democratic than you thought: Fair and Hyman each struggled to get going from a scoring and efficiency standpoint, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story from this contest.

On the one hand, the high plus/minus ratings for the backcourt are a testament to the impact both can make even if the offense isn’t falling. Fair and Hyman are great rebounders at the guard spot. They also can keep the offense controlled, providing stability for a team still looking to gel together.

On the other hand, it’s good to see the supporting cast step up to the plate. McEvans’ scoring explosion off the bench remains the most intriguing. Ditto for Wilson’s bench performance in Sunday’s game. If the Orange can get even half that bench production moving forward, that would be a huge plus for Syracuse.

Next game on the agenda:

Litmus test, midterm examination, mid-season assessment. However you label it, Syracuse has its matchup on Sunday highlighted, underlined, and bolded. The Orange will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-3) in the team’s first game of the season against ACC competition. It will be a critical test to see how Syracuse can hold up against a conference opponent with similar talent and record. Last season, Wake Forest finished 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC.

Brace for impact, because Sunday, December 18th is when the Orange’s season really begins.