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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for vs. #20 Maryland

The Orange face their first ranked test of the year.

Syracuse v Virginia Tech Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images

Coach Felisha Legette-Jack and the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (3-0) are heading on the road for the first time this season on Sunday to (coincidentally) take on their first AP top 25 opponent on the schedule: the #20 Maryland Terrapins (1-2).

With Syracuse’s non-conference slate starting to ramp up, Legette-Jack and the Orange are hoping to prove that their early season dominance can translate away from the Dome and against a team as talented as the Terrapins. Given Syracuse’s shortcomings against manageable non-conference opponents last season, this is one of the program’s opportunities this season to boost its NCAA Tournament resume,

Oh, and don’t be fooled by Maryland’s slow start out of the gate. The Terrapins finished 28-13 last season and advanced all the way to the Elite Eight in the the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Also take the statistical advantages Syracuse currently has with an immense grain of salt. Syracuse’s first three opponents included Lafayette, Central Connecticut and Coppin State while Maryland started the year off with Harvard, #1 South Carolina and #8 UConn.

Tip-off between Syracuse and Maryland is at 11 a.m. EST in College Park. The game will also be available for stream on the Big Ten Network.

Here’s what to watch for in the battle between the Orange and the Terrapins:

Who’s stopping Sellers?

Sellers refers to Shyanne Sellers, Maryland’s stat six-foot-two forward who is currently averaging 20.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game while shooting 45% from the field and 46% from three. Syracuse up to this point in the season has yet to face an elite forward who can flat out score anywhere on the court.

Freshman Alyssa Latham will get the start on Sellers. I imagine veteran Kyra Wood will also see ample time. The other significant x-factor for the Orange is how centers like transfer Izabel Varejão will fare in a high-minute role (remember that Varejão formerly played for Michigan).

Regardless of who it is, someone has got to be able to effectively guard Sellers.

Keep an eye on the game’s pace

How Legette-Jack manages this game is going to be fascinating. Maryland is shooting the fifth-most field goal attempts in the Big Ten so far this year, but the Terrapins are also giving opponents the fifth-most field goal attempts. Like Syracuse, Maryland is going to turn mistakes into field goal attempts and points. Do the Orange grind this game to a halt and play with a slow-tempo to limit Maryland’s chances to score, or stay aggressive at the risk of the Terrapins catching fire.

Help for Fair

Speaking of keeping up, Syracuse’s offense is scorching hot out of the gate. Even against far-less talented opponents, the scoring has looked great across the board. But obviously, playing Maryland is an entirely different ball game. Can Latham and Sophie Burrows still each double-digit point totals against a physically tough Terrapins defense? Will Alaina Rice continue her surprise scoring year so far? Who on the bench can give the Orange’s offense a jolt? Someone has got to give Dyaisha Fair some quality help.

Syracuse versus #20 Maryland preview by the numbers

All-time: Syracuse is 0-5 versus Maryland with the first meeting between the two schools happening back in 1982.

Last matchup: The Orange last faced the Terrapins during the 2015-2016 season. Interestingly, Syracuse lost to Maryland on the road 82-64 but ended up making the NCAA Championship that same season. Two former players from the 2015-16 NCAA runner-up Syracuse team — Maggie Morrison and Brandi Fowler — will be in attendance for Sunday’s game, according to Syracuse Athletics.

Win/loss implications: A win gives the Orange its first ever win versus Maryland and hands the program its best victory of the Legette-Jack era. A loss wouldn’t be the most damaging given how much of an underdog Syracuse is, but it will definitely briefly halt the team’s momentum.

Prediction: I think Syracuse has the outside shooting and overall depth to keep things close on offense. I can’t say the defense will keep up versus a talented Maryland team, which is why I’ve got the Terrapins comfortably winning 78-64.

Syracuse vs. #20 Maryland Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Maryland
Statistical Categories Syracuse Maryland
PPG 85.3 74
Opponent PPG 47 89.7
Margin of Victory plus-38.3 minus-15.7
FG% 50% 41%
Defensive FG% 33% 46%
3FG% 34% 39%
Defensive 3FG% 30% 33%
FT% 63% 71%
RPG 47 38.7
APG 15.3 15.7
T/O 14.7 20
A/T ratio 1 0.8
SPG 10 6
BPG 5.3 2