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

Sin City Part II: Electric Boogaloo

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

In a quick turnaround, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (4-1) returns Saturday afternoon for the second half of its back-to-back slate as part of the 2023 South Point Thanksgiving Shootout hosted in Las Vegas. Up next on the schedule is the Iowa State Cyclones (2-2), who just lost Friday afternoon to Vanderbilt 68-53. Tip off between Syracuse and Iowa State is slated for 2 p.m. EST. The game will also be streamed on FloHoops.

The Orange are coming off a strong performance against the Northern Iowa Panthers, who they handily defeated 71-54 on Friday.

Syracuse aims to finish 2-0 in the South Point Shootout, a benchmark the Orange reached during their last invitation to the Las Vegas-based tournament in 2015.

Iowa State has already beaten Butler and Southern so far this year but dropped games to Drake and Vandy by double-digits, a start that looks a bit confusing considering the Cyclones took the Big 12 by storm last season and won the conference championship. The Cyclones finished 22-10 last season, including 11-7 in the Big 12.

Here’s what to watch for:

Defensive strategy against Fair

Given Dyaisha Fair’s reputation as a scorer, more teams this season have adopted a game plan of denying her off-ball and putting extra pressure when she does have possession in favor of forcing other members of the Orange to step up offensively.

So far, Syracuse has combated that type of defense. Georgia Woolley has two straight games with more than 20 points since she returned from injury. Alaina Rice has increased her role offensively. Compared to last season, coach Felisha Legette-Jack has more depth to work with and feed the ball too.

Can that continue to work over the course of the full season? If not, what are some other avenues can still get 15-20 points consistently?

Halting the change in momentum

This year’s Iowa State team is very much hot and cold. Look no further than the Cyclones’ performance against Vandy on Friday: Iowa State had a first quarter lead, was outscored 17-4 in the second quarter, stormed back in the third and then were outscored again in the 4th. In both its wins, Iowa State needed to pull away at the end.

The Cyclones are inconsistent, but still boast the talent to win games it doesn’t necessarily deserve to if you look at the final stat sheet. Similarly, Syracuse has to prove it can wrap up close games. The Orange did that against Northern Iowa: for every 1-2 baskets the Panthers scored, someone on Syracuse had an answer.

Near-perfect offensive execution

The Cyclones are currently forking over the fourth-highest field goal percentage and three-point percentage to its opponents in the Big 12, but the one area it has excelled at is rebounding. Iowa State rarely gives opponents opportunities at second-chance points, meaning Syracuse will need to either find more opportunities in transition to take the pressure off things or better execute its half-court offense compared to the Northern Iowa game.

Syracuse versus Iowa State preview by the numbers

All-time: The Orange are 1-0 all-time versus the Cyclones. Saturday’s game will be the first time both programs have faced each other in the regular season.

Last matchup: Syracuse last faced Iowa State in March 2017 during the first round of that season’s NCAA Tournament, where the Orange comfortably defeated the Cyclones 85-65.

Win/loss implications: A win pushes Syracuse to an impressive 5-1 record heading back to the 315 for the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge, while a loss pushes the Orange’s next game versus Alabama into really must win territory.

Prediction: Iowa State is going to make this closer than what the first glance of the stats might show, but I’ve got the Orange still squeaking by in a 76-68 win.

Syracuse vs. Iowa State Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Iowa State
Statistical Categories Syracuse Iowa State
PPG 81.6 71.5
Opponent PPG 55.6 67
Margin of Victory plus-26 plus-4.5
FG% 46% 45%
Defensive FG% 34% 39%
3FG% 32% 34%
Defensive 3FG% 28% 30%
FT% 71% 67%
RPG 45.8 41
APG 15 19.5
T/O 14.4 15.8
A/T ratio 1 1.2
SPG 9 4.5
BPG 6.8 3.8