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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for versus Wake Forest

Let the ACC games begin.

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

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: it’s time for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team to start ACC play.

The Orange (8-2) will take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-3, 0-1) on Sunday at the JMA Wireless Dome. Tip-off is at 12 pm EST, with the game also available for streaming via the ESPN+ ACC Network.

Syracuse enters the contest on a three-game winning streak, while Wake Forest is coming in hot with a five-game winning streak of its own. Last season, the Deamon Deacons finished 16-17 overall and 4-14 in the ACC, ending with the same conference record as the Orange did.

The contest will be a good litmus test for Syracuse against a similarly-ranked and talented opponent. With all this in mind, here’s what to watch for between the Orange and the Demon Deacons.

Question #1: Who wins the battle between Syracuse’s defense and Wake Forest’s offense?

As per usual with the Orange, the team’s defense remains the biggest question moving forward. Sunday afternoon’s matchup versus the Demon Deacons will be a solid way to see how the defense holds up against in-conference rivals.

This is especially the case given these two teams. In the ACC, Syracuse is currently giving up the second-most points in the conference (62.9 PPG), but Wake Forest’s offense is also generating the second-fewest points in the conference (64.8 PPG).

If the defense holds up, Wake Forest doesn’t have the upside on offense to score enough. But if the defense collapses, the Demon Deacons could just shoot the lights out and put the Orange to bed.

Question #2: Can Asia Strong and Dariauna Lewis effectively crash the glass?

Entering the contest, it’s interesting to see how both teams stack up on the rebounding front. The Orange are securing the fourth-most rebounds per game in the ACC, while the Demon Deacons sit at 9th. The matchup to watch will be on the offense glass. Syracuse ranks 4th in the ACC in most offensive rebounds per game, but Wake Forest ranks third-worst in that department.

Strong and Lewis will need to come up big for Syracuse. Wake Forest is a different beat altogether compared to the Coppin State’s and Wagner’s of the world.

Question #3: Can the Orange stand strong in the second half?

This will easily be one of the four toughest games for Syracuse up to this point (the list for now: Penn State, Purdue, and Yale.

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

On paper, this contest is too close to call. Both programs each have first-year coaches, similar resumes (translation: beaten the teams they were supposed to win against but lost against higher-ranked opponents), and styles of play. Comparing both teams, they match up similarly in three-point shooting, assist-to-turnover ratio, field goal percentage, and blocks per game. Ever per the NCAA, Wake Forest (80th in the NCAAW) ranks nearly identical to Syracuse (81st in the NCAAW).

Who closes out and plays smarter, in the end, will be the deciding factor. These teams are incredibly similar on the stat sheet, and this contest will be a close one.

It’s been a mixed bag for Syracuse in crunch time. Against Penn State, the Orange blew a double-digit lead only to lose by double-digits. Versus Purdue, Syracuse came up short but stormed back, while against Yale, things culminated in the 4th quarter thanks to Lewis’ defense and Dyaisha Fair’s late-game play.

Whoever wins in the clutch will have the final laugh.

Syracuse versus Wake Forest preview by the numbers

All-time: The Orange lead the all-time matchup 7-3 over the Demon Deacons, including a perfect 4-0 at home.

Last matchup: Last season, Wake Forest defeated Syracuse at home 76-60.

Thoughts on the team stats: Both these programs are close in almost every major statistical category. It’s kinda scary.

Prediction: Deciding the outcome of this one is like trying to pull teeth out, but I’ll go with Syracuse 64-60 over Wake Forest. Barely.

Syracuse (8-2, 0-0) vs. Wake Forest (8-3, 0-1) Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Wake Forest
Statistical Categories Syracuse Wake Forest
PPG 77.6 64.8
Opponent PPG 62.9 56.1
Margin of Victory plus-14.7 plus-8.7
FG% 43% 41%
Defensive FG% 36% 36%
3FG% 29% 31%
Defensive 3FG% 25% 29%
FT% 69% 61%
RPG 46.2 40.5
APG 14 15.3
T/O 15.8 14.8
A/T ratio 0.9 1
Points off turnovers 17.7 12.5
SPG 9.9 5.5
BPG 4.6 4.5
Syracuse University Athletics