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Syracuse women’s basketball: What to Watch for versus Louisville

The Orange face its toughest test yet against the Cardinals.

Syndication: Louisville Scott Utterback/Courier Journal, Louisville Courier Journal via Imagn Content Services, LLC

As we’ve said before, the road for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (10-2, 1-0) becomes way more competitive from here on out. The Orange will get a true taste of how elite the ACC is in its matchup versus the Louisville Cardinals (10-4, 1-0).

Syracuse heads on the road to take on Louisville Thursday evening in a matchup between the upstart Orange and the ACC’s preseason favorite to win the conference in the Cardinals. Tip-off is at 7 pm EST, with the game also available for streaming via the ESPN+ ACC Network.

Both programs enter the game on a five-game winning streak, with each team looking to stay undefeated in conference play to close out 2022. Last season, the Cardinals finished 29-5 overall and 16-2 versus the ACC en route to an impressive Final Four berth in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

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

Here’s what to watch for between Syracuse and Louisville.

Question #1: Will Syracuse stay disciplined on defense?

The Orange’s interior defense will have a tall task against the Cardinals’ top-40 scoring offense in the NCAA. While Louisville isn’t the best jump-shooting team out there, the Cardinals make up for it by getting to the foul line and setting itself up for good shots.

Entering the game, Louisville ranks top five in the ACC in free throw attempts (4th) and percentage (1st) while ranking third-best in the conference in field goal attempts (62.3 per game) and percentage (47%). For context, Syracuse has only allowed opponents to shoot 37% from the field. Preventing second-chance looks and locking up the paint will be the main points of emphasis for the Orange.

Question #2: Fair and Hyman, then who?

Outside of the Dyaisha Fair and Teisha Hyman backcourt, someone else is going to need to have a big night if the Orange are looking to keep things close versus the Cardinals. Asia Strong has had her moments, especially when the outside shooting has been effective. Dariauna Lewis and Georgia Woolley each can juice up the offense on the right night.

Louisville allows opponents to shoot just 38% from the field, but the Cardinals’ offensive upside is a bit higher given its talent and past success. Especially on the road, Fair and Hyman both can’t do it alone against a defense as good as Louisville’s.

Question #3: Can the Orange just keep the contest close?

Surprisingly, both these teams are closer on paper this season compared to last season. Each program ranks similarly in scoring offense, efficiency, rebounding, and assist-to-turnover ratio. Even from a strength of schedule perspective, Syracuse (103rd in NCAA) ranks right next to Louisville (104th in NCAA).

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

However, the Cardinals proved in 2021-2022 that it can have its moments of dominance, while the Orange still need to prove it is more than a paper tiger. This season, Louisville already has three NET top-100 victories, including a win versus the NET top 25. On the other hand, Syracuse only has its recent win versus Wake Forest as its lone NET top 100 victory.

Considering last year’s embarrassing 100-64 defeat, keeping that margin close (win or loss) is already a step in the right direction for Syracuse.

Syracuse versus Louisville preview by the numbers

All-time: Louisville is 17-7 all-time versus Syracuse dating back to 1986, including winners of the last four contests. However, only one of the Orange’s wins was on the road versus the Cardinals. Louisville is 7-1 at home all-time versus Syracuse. Syracuse hasn’t beaten Louisville on the road since 2016 (on a neutral court in Greensboro, NC). The Orange’s last true road victory versus the Cardinals was in 2010.

Last matchup: Louisville throttled Syracuse 100-64 in February as the Orange fell off toward the end of last season.

Thoughts on the team stats: As you’ll see down below, both teams match up surprisingly well on paper, but Syracuse’s lack of outside shooting and general offensive efficiency will be obstacles the Orange have to overcome if it wants to beat the Cardinals.

Prediction: Syracuse is in a much better spot compared to last season when it faced Louisville, but the Cardinals have history, continuity, and a tendency to get the job done at home. It’ll be a close game, but I believe the Orange will fall 71-58 to the Cardinals.

Syracuse vs. Louisville Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Louisville
Statistical Categories Syracuse Louisville
PPG 77.5 77.6
Opponent PPG 62.6 62.4
Margin of Victory plus-14.9 plus-15.2
FG% 43% 47%
Defensive FG% 37% 38%
3FG% 28% 35%
Defensive 3FG% 25% 34%
FT% 70% 78%
RPG 45.3 39.4
APG 13.5 15.5
T/O 15.2 15.6
A/T ratio 0.9 1
Points off turnovers 18.5 22.9
SPG 10.6 9.2
BPG 4.3 4.4