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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for vs. Virginia

The Orange return to the Dome in hopes of redemption.

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

It’s officially make-it-or-break-it time for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (13-7, 4-5) heading into tonight’s home matchup against the Virginia Cavaliers (14-6, 3-6).

Tip-off between Syracuse and Virginia is at 7 pm EST in the JMA Wireless Dome, with the game available for streaming on ESPN’s ACC Network+.

Syracuse enters the game on a three-game losing streak, with the Orange looking to rebuild momentum in hopes of a strong late-season finish, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Luckily, the Orange have caught Virginia at the right time, as the Cavaliers enter this game with two-straight defeats and losses in five of its past six games.

Here’s what to watch for in the contest between Syracuse and Virginia.

Question #1: Can Syracuse find its groove on offense?

Surprisingly, it’s been the offense that’s been the most troubling recently for the Orange. Syracuse is averaging under 55 points per game in its last three games, with Dyaisha Fair being the only “real” hub on offense as Teisha Hyman and Georgia Woolley have struggled to put the ball in the basket.

Syracuse still ranks as one of the best rebounding and perimeter-based defensive teams in its conference, but against some elite ACC offenses, the Orange are going to need to score around 65-70 points to be in some of these closer contests.

Question #2: Which team dominates the interior?

Both these teams excel in the same categories defensively, holding opponents to low efficiency on jump shots and from three while preventing second-chance point opportunities for opponents by excelling on the glass. Dariauna Lewis, Kyra Wood, and company will have their work cut out for them, especially to see if they could all possibly give the Orange more juice on offense with some extra possessions and more finishes around the rim.

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

Question #3: One of these teams has to give in, but who will?

Both these teams enter their Thursday night matchup on an interesting note, with each slowly falling fast in conference play. Virginia has lost six games to the ACC after beginning this season 12-0 and wins in 13 of its first 14 games. However, the Cavaliers are starting to come back down to Earth, which could hurt its chances at an NCAA Tournament berth.

On that note, Syracuse was on the outer fringes of March Madness talk before dropping three games in a row, two against ranked opposition and one against a conference bottom-feeder in Georgia Tech. Every game is “a must-win.” Yet, this one feels more important for the Orange if the team looks to regain any momentum heading into its final eight games.

Syracuse versus Virginia preview by the numbers

All-time: Syracuse is 9-4 all-time against Virginia, including a 4-1 record at home.

Last matchup: Last season, the Orange defeated the Cavaliers 77-70 in Virginia.

Win/loss implications: A win gives Syracuse a decent-quality win against an opponent with a high NET ranking, while a defeat means the losing trend continues for the Orange heading into a brutal end-of-season schedule.

Prediction: Syracuse excels when it's at home compared to on the road. If this game was a month ago, Virginia would’ve been an easy pick, but it's clear the Cavaliers’ statistical dominance was a bit inflated by an easier nonconference slate of opponents. If the Orange could even muster enough offense, its defense should be able to will Syracuse to a 65-58 home victory.

Syracuse vs. Virginia Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Virginia
Statistical Categories Syracuse Virginia
PPG 74.4 72
Opponent PPG 65.9 59.6
Margin of Victory plus-8.5 plus-12.4
FG% 42% 42%
Defensive FG% 40% 36%
3FG% 29% 28%
Defensive 3FG% 27% 26%
FT% 72% 70%
RPG 42.5 44.7
APG 13.3 9.4
T/O 15.6 15.1
A/T ratio 0.8 0.9
SPG 10.6 8.9
BPG 4.3 4.7