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Syracuse women’s basketball: strong start, defense power Syracuse to 71-54 win over Northern Iowa

Syracuse begins its run in Las Vegas with an impressive defensive effort.

Syracuse v Virginia Tech Photo by Ryan Hunt/Getty Images

The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (4-1) continued to impress so far this season after defeating the Northern Iowa Panthers (1-3) 71-54 on Friday afternoon in its first game of the 2023 South Point Thanksgiving Shootout hosted in Las Vegas.

The Orange were powered by an impressive defensive effort that saw the Orange hold the Panthers to 30% shooting from the field. Despite Syracuse’s own offensive struggles, stand-out performances from Georgia Woolley (20 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 1 block) and Alaina Rice (17 points on 6/10 from the field and 3/4 from three, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks) gave Syracuse enough points on the board to maintain a double-digit cushion for almost the entire game.

Defensively, Syracuse allowed just one Northern Iowa player (Cailyn Morgan, 12 points) to reach double-figures and held the Missouri Valley Conference Preseason Player of the Year Grace Boffeli to 8 points on 2/12 shooting. After going up 17-7 early in the second quarter, Syracuse never forked over its double-digit lead the rest of the way against the Panthers.

Dyaisha Fair and Alyssa Latham scored 9 points each, which means Fair’s streak of 37-straight games scoring at least 10 points or more with the Orange officially came to an end.

Kyra Wood also proved to be the Orange’s most valuable defensive player against Northern Iowa, swatting away five shots and serving as the key anchor for Syracuse in the paint:

Syracuse began the game with a quick 7-0 run as the team’s defense forced Northern Iowa to shoot 1/10 out of the gate, but both teams overall struggled offensively to kick things off. At one point, the Orange and Panthers combined to shoot 5/22 from the field since the opening tip.

The size across the board for Syracuse contributed to Northern Iowa’s early offensive struggles, with the Orange as a team combining for five blocks in the first quarter alone (three of which came from Kyra Wood). While Syracuse’s offense didn’t look the best early on, its superb defense did hold Northern Iowa to just three field goals in 17 tries after 10 minutes of game time.

Alaina Rice provided Syracuse with five quick points, but six different players from the Orange scored in the first quarter as the team used an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 15-7 heading into the second quarter. From there, Syracuse’s lead ballooned to as much as 15 points in the first half with the offense finding just enough open looks on plays like these:

With all that said, the first half remained a defensive slugfest, which proved to be the case as neither Syracuse nor Northern Iowa could score for most of the entire second quarter. Both teams ended the quarter shooting a combined 2/24 (!!!) from the field, but the Orange most notably held the Panthers to 7/37 shooting in the first half despite Syracuse’s own struggles offensively.

Despite their struggles, the Panthers stormed back late in the third quarter after Syracuse extended its lead by as much as 17 points (44-27). A 7-0 run by Northern Iowa to end the quarter, fueled by some better three-point looks from the Panthers, meant the Orange were only up 51-41 heading into the game’s final 10 minutes.

The Orange’s offense continued to wax and wane throughout the the second half, but it was the defense that ultimately helped Syracuse stormed off any comeback effort by Northern Iowa. The Panthers were held scoreless for over four minutes in the fourth quarter, allowing the Orange to re-extend its lead to 16 points and put the game away for good in the 13-point win.

Syracuse shot just 37% overall (including 5/18 from three), with Rice being the only member of the Orange to shoot higher than 50%. But, a game like today proved the Orange could win comfortably without needing to completely rely on its high-powered offense.

The Orange will look to finish 2-0 in Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon when they are slated to take on the Iowa State Cyclones (2-1).