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Syracuse women’s basketball: the Orange must keep calm and carry on

Even after back-to-back losses, it’s too early for Syracuse to panic.

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

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team enters the new year in unfamiliar territory.

For starters, the Orange suffered its first home loss of the season to then #6-ranked NC State, snapping the team’s nine-game home win streak. But then, there’s the fact the Orange have now lost back-to-back games for the first time all year, while the upcoming schedule is going to get tougher.

It’s a tough spot to be in for a Syracuse squad with a lot to prove, especially given how horrendous last season was and the pressure that comes with a new head coach and a complete roster makeover.

And yet, even with two straight losses against the ACC’s best of the best, now isn’t the time to panic. If anything, this could be the motivating tool this program needed.

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

In 2021-2022, the Wolfpack trounced the Orange 95-53. On Sunday night, Syracuse was a 10-minute cold stretch and a few baskets away from upsetting a program that’s been top 25 in the nation for 34 straight AP polls. Look also to Syracuse’s recent loss to Louisville. After getting pulverized 100-64 last season, Syracuse only lost by nine points on the road.

In other words, the defeats are just now piling up, but it’s not against conference bottom feeders like we saw last year nor are the losses ridiculous blowouts that the team was accustomed to in 2021-2022. If anything, coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s culture setting has the team competing from start to finish, no matter the result.

The Orange’s effort reflects in its NCAAW NET Ranking, which currently has the Orange ranked 67th as of Tuesday afternoon even with four losses. Yes, Syracuse is now officially 0-4 against Quad 1 opponents. At the same time, it’s only lost those four games by a margin of about 8.25 points per contest. That’s not awful for a team who typically lost against good programs in 2021-2022 by an average of 15-25 points per game.

The potential is there for this team to succeed. Looking a bit forward, the Orange will suit up against the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-7, 0-3) at home followed by back-to-back road games versus the Clemson Tigers (11-4, 2-1) and the Boston College Eagles (11-5, 1-2). These three opponents share the same qualities: tough opponents with a similar talent level as this year’s Orange. Those are all winnable games for Syracuse.

The real litmus test for the team will be late in January with this four-game stretch from January 22nd to February 2nd:

Syracuse’s Upcoming Slate

Opponent Overall Record AP Poll Ranking NCAAW NET Ranking
Opponent Overall Record AP Poll Ranking NCAAW NET Ranking
Duke (road) 13-1 (3-0) 19th 8th
Virginia (home) 13-1 (2-1) NR 29th
Louisville (home) 11-5 (2-1) NR 32nd
Virginia Tech. (road) 12-2 (2-2) 9th 15th

The Orange are looking at a brutal stretch featuring three of the top 30 teams according to the NCAAW, two of which will be on the road. That will be the ultimate test for how the rest of this season will go for this year’s Orange.

So what needs to change? Overall, there are two things Syracuse has to perform better in moving forward.

For starters, the team needs some better play from the backcourt guard duo of Dyaisha Fair and Teisha Hyman. Both Fair (14 points, 6/23 shooting, 1/9 from three) and Hyman (0 points, 0/6 shooting, seven turnovers) are each coming off their worst individual performances this season. That can’t happen, especially when the Orange were a handful of possessions away from a big-time win against NC State.

Despite Hyman’s bad performance versus the Wolfpack, Fair has received the most criticism given her recent string of high-volume, low-efficiency results. In her last five games, Fair has chipped in 17.6 points per game, but on just 32.8% shooting. Against Louisville and NC State, she shot a combined 9/41 from the field and 3/15 from downtown. She just outright needs to play better, from getting better shots up to making sure the rest of the team is involved. Especially against the Wolfpack, it was tough seeing her waste the shot clock only to take a contested jumper that had little chance of going in.

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

Broadly speaking, the Orange also need to cut down on turnovers. Syracuse ranks 113th in the NCAAW in turnovers per game (15.3) and tied for 179th in assists per game. This isn’t a great passing team nor is it the most elite from three outside of a couple of high-volume, average-efficiency players on the roster. In its matchups versus the Cardinals and Wolfpack, the Orange turned the ball over 32 times.

Syracuse can’t afford to give away possessions, especially once this team continues to match up against the elite offenses of the conference.

This can be seen as the low point of the season for Syracuse. With that said, there’s still plenty of basketball left to play for coach Legette-Jack and company. January will be the month to determine just how legit this Syracuse program is this season.

At this point, Syracuse must either bounce back or be bounced out of any consideration for an NCAA Tournament bid.