The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (6-1) survived a Thursday night thriller at home and defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-2) 79-73 in the first-ever matchup between both programs as part of the inaugural ACC/SEC Challenge.
Syracuse overcame the Crimson Tide’s aggressive defense that forced the Orange to turn the ball over 24 times. Freshman forward Alyssa Latham scored a career-high 23 points on 9/10 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds and 5 blocks, while Dyaisha Fair overcame an injury scare in the second half to finish with 20 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and two steals.
Syracuse took a lead in the first quarter (which ballooned to as much as 14 points in the first half) and never forked it over, despite multiple comeback attempts by Alabama. Timely baskets from the Fair-Latham duo as well as from starters Georgia Woolley (10 points, 5 assists, 4/16 shooting), Alaina Rice (8 points, 2/6 shooting) and Izabel Varejão (7 points and 4 rebounds in 14 minutes) helped keep Syracuse ahead.
Kyra Wood contributed 10 points and 13 rebounds off the Orange’s bench. The trio of Sarah Ashlee Barker (18 points), Aaliyah Nye (17 points) and Essence Cody (14 points) led the way for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama’s defense and overall size on the court proved to be a challenge for the Orange from the jump. Syracuse shot 0/4 out of the gate and was held scoreless for the game’s first three minutes. Fortunately, the Orange’s defense kept things close early and a 7-0 scoring run allowed Syracuse to take an early 9-8 lead with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter.
Back-to-back baskets by Alyssa Latham got the Orange’s offense settled in after the slow start. A pair of threes by Fair helped Syracuse take as much as a four point lead in the quarter. Both teams notably struggled with keeping possession as Syracuse and Alabama combined for 12 turnovers in the game’s first 10 minutes.
The Orange’s defense held Alabama to 5/15 shooting out of the gate, and this crafty pass by Fair to Latham at the buzzer gave Syracuse the early 16-13 lead heading into the second quarter:
Syracuse’s defense continued to hold Alabama to tough shots and unforced errors. After only being up 18-17, a 13-0 run put the Orange ahead by 14 points over the Crimson Tide with under five minutes to go in the first half thanks to ack-to-back threes from Latham and Fair. At this point, Alabama was just 6/23 from the field.
Unfortunately, turnovers continued to be a problem for Syracuse even with the rest of the offense clicking. 11 turnovers in the first half allowed the Crimson Tide to hang around even with Bama shooting just 33% from the field after two quarters (compared to 50% for the Orange).
A buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the second quarter by the Crimson Tide put Syracuse up 35-29 entering halftime.
Fair and Latham combined for 29 of the Orange’s 35 first half points as Woolley (2 points, 1/7 shooting) and Rice (14 minutes, 0/0 from the field) struggled to get going in the half. The guard duo of Barker and Nye each had nine points for Alabama.
A three-pointer by Varejão gave the Orange a nine-point lead (38-29) early in the third quarter, but Alabama’s full court pressure defense started to get Syracuse out of its comfort zone. The Crimson Tide continued to nail their outside looks (going 7/12 from three by the middle of third quarter) and began the quarter 6/8 from the field to tie the game up again at 45-45.
Things looked like they would take a turn for the worse after Fair was injured on the defensive side during the middle of the third quarter (from what we could see, it was the left knee area; she later returned to begin the fourth quarter). Fortunately, the rest of the Orange stepped up in a big time way the rest of the quarter — Syracuse scored 10 straight points when Fair was subbed out and re-took a 55-45 lead. Two straight baskets by Alabama cut Syracuse’s lead to 55-50 heading into the final stretch.
For every basket made by the Crimson Tide, Syracuse responded. A tough baseline jumper by Fair and a three-point make from Rice in the corner put the Orange back up by double-digits. Syracuse continued to lead 69-59 with around three minutes remaining, but a late 8-0 run by Alabama cut Syracuse’s lead down to two points with less than two minutes remaining.
But, the Orange hung on after a tough and-one layup by Latham, capping off what was a career night for the forward. Latham became the first Syracuse freshman to score 20 points or more since Kamilla Cardoso in 2021, and that’s without factoring in the key defensive plays she made down the stretch.
Syracuse will look to continue the hot streak against Northeastern on Monday night back in the Dome.