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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for versus Northern Iowa

Part one of a back-to-back slate in Las Vegas.

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

With Thanksgiving Day in the rear view mirror, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (3-1) returns to the court for back-to-back neutral-site games in Las Vegas this weekend as part of the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout.

Competing in the tournament for the first time since 2015, Syracuse will first take on the Northern Iowa Panthers (1-2) Friday afternoon followed by a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Iowa State Cyclones (2-1). Coach Felisha Legette-Jack and the Orange are hoping to regain momentum following a nail-biting 83-81 loss to the then-#20 Maryland Terrapins last weekend.

Northern Iowa finished 23-10 overall last season and 16-4 against the Missouri Valley Conference. Just like the Orange, the Panthers also received a bid to the 2023 Women’s National Invitational Tournament. The Panthers won their season-opener versus Green Bay but are coming off back-to-back losses against #3 Iowa and Ball State.

Tip-off between Syracuse and Northern Iowa is slated for 2 p.m. EST. The game will also be streamed on FloHoops.

Can Syracuse strike it rich in Vegas? Here’s what to watch for:

Who wins on the perimeter

Syracuse should have the talent advantage on offense when you look at the Northern Iowa roster, but the one swing factor in this game is who’s going to shoot the ball the best along the perimeter. Both the Orange and the Panthers are shooting 32% from three. However, while Syracuse’s defense is still working itself out, the one thing the team has done so far this year is limit opponents from three — the Orange’s opponents are shooting under 29% from three through four games so far.

What the bounce back looks like

There should be optimism for the team after it held on for most of the game last Sunday against a program as well-respected and competitive as Maryland. With that said, the next three games for Syracuse are really going to tell just how good this team can be this year — back-to-back games against Northern Iowa and Iowa State, followed by a home game against Alabama as part of the new ACC/SEC Challenge.

All three of these teams have similar-ish talent as Syracuse. Additionally, the Orange’s inconsistency against its non-conference slate last year proved to be one of the main defining factors behind why the Orange fell short of an NCAA Tournament bid.

With games like these, it’s all about taking care of business. No exceptions.

Defining some roles

Georgia Woolley’s return against Maryland means Legette-Jack will need to retool her rotation to incorporate her minutes and usage back into the fold. Woolley scored a team-high 21 points and looked like the natural, multi-level scorer who can help take the offensive load off of Dyaisha Fair.

The big question: how does that change the rotation moving forward, namely for players like Sophie Burrows, Kennedi Perkins and Lexi McNabb? We’ll get a better sense of what Legette-Jack has in store after this weekend.

Syracuse versus Northern Iowa preview by the numbers

All-time: The Orange are 1-0 all-time versus the Panthers.

Friday’s matchup is just the second in program history between the two schools. Syracuse won the only previous meeting, 64-63, on Dec. 3, 1999.

Last matchup: Syracuse will play Northern Iowa for the first time since December 1999, when the Orange squeaked by the Panthers in a 64-63 win.

Win/loss implications: A win pushes the Orange to 4-1 and gives everyone a much-needed confidence booster after the Maryland loss, while defeat would up the stakes for the Iowa State game.

Prediction: Northern Iowa battles but Syracuse’s offense proves to be too much in a 74-60 win.

Syracuse vs. Northern Iowa Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Northern Iowa
Statistical Categories Syracuse Northern Iowa
PPG 84.3 65
Opponent PPG 56 78.7
Margin of Victory plus-28.3 minus-13.7
FG% 48% 38%
Defensive FG% 35% 47%
3FG% 32% 32%
Defensive 3FG% 28% 32%
FT% 68% 62%
RPG 45 32.7
APG 14.8 13.3
T/O 15.5 13.3
A/T ratio 1 1
SPG 9.3 6.7
BPG 5.3 3