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Syracuse women’s basketball: What to Watch for versus NC State

Syracuse opens the new year with its toughest opponent yet.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal Scott.Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

Ending 2022 facing a good team and beginning 2023 facing a great team.

That’s the situation the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball (11-3, 1-1) finds itself in as the Orange prepare to take the court against #6 NC State Wolfpack (11-2, 1-1) on New Year’s Day.

Syracuse hopes to redeem itself at home after suffering a close nine-point loss to the Louisville Cardinals Thursday night. On the other side, the Wolfpack is off to a hot start but is coming off a double-digit home loss to the Duke Blue Devils. Last season, NC State finished 32-4 overall with just one loss against the ACC, advancing all the way to the Elite Eight in the 2022 NCAA Tournament.

Tip-off is at 7 pm EST, with the game also available for streaming via the YES Network.

Here’s what to watch for in the matchup between the Orange and the Wolfpack:

Question #1: Can Syracuse contain NC State’s hot shooting from three?

Similar to the recent matchup versus Louisville, NC State enters the New Year’s Day contest as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the ACC. The Wolfpack lead the conference in three-point percentage (40%) while taking nearly the same number of attempts that Louisville has.

On the other hand, Syracuse’s own outside shooting ranks towards the bottom in all of the NCAA. The team doesn’t have the scoring punch compared to the Wolfpack, so unless Syracuse can win on the rebounding front, the Orange must prevent NC State from getting open looks from behind the line before things get out of hand.

Question #2: Who else provides support in the paint for the Orange?

To my surprise, Dariauna Lewis looks great on both ends of the court with her defensive intensity, hustle, and rebounding (especially after two high-stakes ACC games). She’s proven to be a consistent two-way role player who gives the Orange some much-needed intensity.

Now, the real question is who else can step up defensively for the Orange, especially with preventing easy penetration inside and second-chance opportunities. Can one of Georgia Wooley or Alaina Rice be more of a rebounding presence? Will Asia Strong build some consistency after an up-and-down season so far? Is there someone else coach Felisha Legette-Jack can go to who can give the Orange some more size down low for 10-12 minutes a game?

Maybe we can see a breakout player off the Syracuse bench versus one of the best teams in the country.

Question #3: How will Dyaisha Fair bounce back?

Fair is easily coming off her most inefficient scoring game of the season, chipping in just 13 points on 3/18 shooting against an aggressive Louisville defense. She’s a fantastic playmaker and outside shooter, but she struggled to finish around the basket and from floater range against the Cardinals.

Without Fair producing like her usual self, the Orange struggled to keep pace with Louisville. Syracuse needs Fair to play like her usual self if the team wants to stand a chance against the 26th-best scoring offense in the NCAAW.

Syracuse versus NC State preview by the numbers

All-time: NC State is 10-4 all-time versus Syracuse, with the Orange losing the last five matchups. Interestingly, the Wolfpack are just 2-2 versus the Orange on the road. Syracuse hopes to earn its first win over the ACC since 2017.

Last matchup: Syracuse stood no chance against NC State back in February 2022, falling 95-53. But hey, that was then and this is now.

Win/loss implications: A win would give the Orange both its most impressive win of the season and its first victory of the year against a Quad 1 opponent. A loss would break the Orange’s undefeated streak at home and drop Syracuse to 0-4 against Quad 1 opponents in 2022-2023.

Prediction: NC State is an incredibly tough matchup for the Orange, especially just a few days removed from a tough road game against Louisville. Syracuse will keep things close, but I’ll say NC State sneaks out with an 84-74 win in the Dome (here’s to hoping I’m wrong on this one).

Syracuse vs. NC State Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse NC State
Statistical Categories Syracuse NC State
PPG 77.5 78.6
Opponent PPG 64.4 58.5
Margin of Victory plus-13.1 plus-20.2
FG% 43% 47%
Defensive FG% 39% 36%
3FG% 29% 40%
Defensive 3FG% 26% 27%
FT% 71% 69%
RPG 44.2 43.6
APG 13.3 14.6
T/O 14.9 13.3
A/T ratio 0.9 1.7
Points off turnovers 18.9 15.8
SPG 10.4 6.6
BPG 3.9 5.1