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Syracuse women’s basketball: the Orange’s upset bid falls short in 62-50 loss to #13 Duke

‘Cuse drops three-straight games for the first time this season.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Notre Dame at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Late-game execution has turned from a potential problem to a recurring theme for a feisty Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (13-7, 4-5) that continues to keep games close, but ultimately fails to generate enough points to sneak by with a win.

That trend continued in Sunday afternoon’s matchup against the #13 Duke Blue Devils (17-2, 7-1), where the Orange led early but succumbed to a nine-minute scoring drought that saw Duke outscore Syracuse 22-4 from the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter. Although the Orange cut as much as a 13-point deficit down to two points, the Blue Devils' aggressiveness on offense and dominance on the boards resulted in ‘Cuse falling 62-50 in Durham.

The Orange started off strong right out of the gate, holding the Blue Devils to just 5/14 shooting from the field with six turnovers as ‘Cuse shot out to a 7-0 start. Syracuse led 15-10 after the first quarter, with Dyaisha Fair and Teisha Hyman combining for 9 points and 2 assists with the defense giving the Orange some early scoring opportunities.

Outside of the first quarter, however, Syracuse’s backcourt duo struggled for most of the game. Fair finished with 12 points on just 4/18 (22%) shooting from the field, while Hyman chipped in a quiet 7 points on 2/11 shooting (18%).

Offensively, the big story of Sunday afternoon’s game against Duke was Syracuse’s scoring production off the bench. The Orange outscored the Blue Devils 23-8 in bench points, led by 15 points on 60% shooting from Alaina Rice and 6 points from Saniaa Wilson in 19 minutes.

The Orange didn’t leave Durham without a brief chance at redemption, cutting a 39-26 third-quarter deficit down to six points courtesy of an 11-4 run by Syracuse. ‘Cuse only trailed 43-41 with nine minutes left in the game, but Duke finished strong by outscoring the Orange 19-9 the rest of the way, with Shayeann Day-Wilson (16 points), Celeste Taylor (15 points), and Elizabeth Balogun (10 points) leading the way for the Blue Devils.

The loss gives the Orange its third-consecutive defeat for the first time all season, dropping the team to below-.500 in conference play.

Syracuse vs. Duke by the numbers:

  1. Both teams combined for 37 total turnovers.
  2. Dyaisha Fair finished with her 20th straight game scoring double-digits in points.
  3. Fair and Hyman combined to shoot 6/39 (15%) from the field against Duke.
  4. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Orange 38-27.
  5. Both programs combined to shoot 5/22 from three.

Biggest Takeaways of the Game:

The bench steps up big time: With Fair and Hyman struggling offensively, Alaina Rice and Saniaa Wilson kept the Orange afloat even as the game was slipping away. In particular, Wilson looked great, giving Syracuse more size down low to match up against a tall Duke forward crop, while Rice’s scoring spark kept Syracuse within distance for most of the game along with her great effort on defense.

This is a game of numbers: To win a game against a team like Duke, Syracuse needs to win some of these critical statistical battles. The three most important have been turnovers, three-point percentage, and rebounding. If the Orange can’t make its opponent pay from three, it needs to prevent second-chance opportunities while cutting down on its own mistakes. Losing two of those three categorizes has typically correlated to a loss for the Orange.

Is time on the Orange’s side: For the third-straight time against a ranked ACC opponent, Syracuse held strong in the first half before losing its stride in the third and fourth quarters. In particular, Syracuse’s offense has cooled off after a recent hot stretch. Georgia Woolley’s production hasn’t been impressive recently, while the Fair-Hyman duo isn’t generating enough consistent offense to keep the Orange alive from start to finish.

After the game, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said the following:

“We are going to get better,” said Legette-Jack. “We lost to a really good team. At the end of the day we aren’t there yet but we are coming.”

It’s still good to see that this team can compete and make things interesting against the top half of the conference. However, time for improvement is starting to run low with just nine conference games left before the ACC Tournament.

Next game on the agenda:

Syracuse will look to break its current three-game losing streak back in the Dome, where the Orange will face off against the Virginia Cavaliers (14-6, 3-6) Thursday night. Virginia enters the contest with a two-game losing streak of its own, but the Cavaliers are projected as a borderline NCAA Tournament-bound program.