It was a battle of the Northeast until the bitter end.
The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (5-2) took on the Yale Bulldogs (5-4) as the team looked to secure its first road win of the season. The Orange were coming off a nine-point loss on the road to the Purdue Boilermaker, while the Bulldogs were coming off back-to-back losses against New Mexico State and UMass.
For the first 20 minutes, it appeared the Orange would fall to 0-3 on the road. But then, Syracuse's gears shifted in the game’s final 20 minutes.
In Sunday afternoon’s matchup against Yale, 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).
In the first half, Syracuse trailed early due to sloppy play and an inability to get up easy shots, finishing with just 6/25 shooting after two quarters. The Orange did get to the line 17 times, making 12 free throws by halftime.
As for the defense, Syracuse was able to force some turnovers, but hot shooting from three kept the Bulldogs ahead by 8-10 points during the second quarter. Yale finished 5/12 from three in what was a strong effort by the Bulldogs’ offense.
In the first half, coach Legette-Jack ran a slightly different rotation compared to previous games. Cheyenne McEvans played 14 minutes by halftime, giving the Orange some more size and burst at guard. Alaina Rice didn’t see the court in the first two quarters after seeing her role reduced in recent contests, but coach Legette-Jack did use nine different players by halftime in her rotation.
Warming up at Payne Whitney Gymnasium. pic.twitter.com/BAUb7Lf8vF— 'Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) December 4, 2022
In the second half, the intensity grew exponentially as the Orange surged back thanks to some physical defense and some streaky shooting from Dyaisha Fair.
Syracuse held Yale to just 22 points in the second half, outscoring the Bulldogs by 12 points.
After trailing for most of the game, the fourth quarter proved to be a turning point for both teams. A late-game three-pointer from Fair put Syracuse up 56-54 with just minutes to go. Two clutch blocks and back-to-back strong finishes at the rim from Dariauna Lewis powered Syracuse by the time the final buzzer rang.
In the end, Syracuse (6-2) squeaked by Yale (4-5) 60-58, securing the team’s first road victory of the season.
Fair and Lewis combined for 33 points for the Orange, who both got going in the 4th quarter. Georgia Woolley also chipped in 11 points. After not playing in the first half, Rice gave the Orange a much-needed boost off the bench with her defense and intensity.
There’s plenty to discuss after a thrilling finish. Here are the biggest takeaways from the Orange’s road victory over the Bulldogs.
Syracuse vs. Yale by the numbers:
- After starting off 5/12 from three in the first half, the Bulldogs were just 1/5 in the second half.
- Syracuse’s 30 free throw attempts were the most by the team this season.
- The Orange were ahead against the Bulldogs for less than four minutes worth of game time.
- It was a slow-tempo contest throughout the game, with both teams combining for just 10 fastbreak points.
- It was also an incredibly sloppy team, with both programs combining for 35 total turnovers.
Biggest Takeaways of the Game:
Dyaisha Fair and Dariauna Lewis save the day: You have to love what coach Legette-Jack is getting out of her rotation players.
The final counting stats didn’t look pretty, but Fair’s shooting all but kept Syracuse alive in the 4th quarter against a physical, aggressive Bulldogs defense. She can do it all: set up teammates, score across the floor, and play within a drive-and-kick offense.
As for Lewis, concern grew when she looked to briefly leave the game early in the 3rd quarter with a wrist injury. On the court, Lewis returned and seem to not miss a beat. Especially in the 4th, she made two incredible blocks and a couple of tough layups to shit the momentum in the game for good.
Moving forward, expect both players to continue emerging as reliable contributors in the clutch.
Coach Legette-Jack isn’t afraid to try new things: How the final rotation will look throughout this season has been a repeated narrative to begin the Orange’s schedule. Against Yale, a couple of interesting things stuck out when it came to who played and who didn’t.
By far and away, the most intriguing lineup came in the 4th quarter when coach Legette-Jack surrounded Lewis in the paint with Fair, Hyman, Woolley, and Rice. The four-guard lineup gave the Orange an interesting look with some more speed and burst on both ends of the court. Interestingly, Rice played in 20 minutes, a decent amount of which took place in the 4th quarter.
Moving forward, expect coach Legette-Jack to blend lineup experimentation with putting together the best lineups on the court.
The blue-collar mentality is for real: It was an ugly game from an efficiency standpoint, but this isn’t new for Syracuse.
As with most of the team’s wins, securing positive margins on the rebounding and free throw front powered Syracuse despite not being able to get into an offensive groove throughout the game.
In particular, Rice deserves the shoutout in this game. She wasn’t much of a scorer, but her defense and intensity were exactly what Syracuse needed in the game’s final minutes. If that’s the role she can play moving forward, that would be a huge plus for the Orange.
Coach Legette-Jack said this team was going to be physical and play with a blue-collar mentality. Sunday afternoon’s game proved that was a certainty.
Next game on the agenda:
After bouncing back against Yale, Syracuse (6-2) will look forward to a return back in the JMA Wireless Dome against Coppin State Thursday night. This season, Coppin State currently sits at 2-6 on the year after finishing 15-13 overall in 2021-2022.
It wasn’t pretty, but Coach Legette-Jack and company got the job done in Connecticut.
Alaina Rice gave us solid minutes today and earned the hard hat in our hard-fought win on the road!— 'Cuse Hoops (@CuseWBB) December 4, 2022
EARN IT. pic.twitter.com/gRslJiHbBG