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Syracuse women’s basketball: Saniaa Wilson’s career-high performance flashes upside of Orange’s offense

Syracuse’s depth is clicking on offense at just the right time.

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

You could only find smiles in the locker room after Syracuse Orange women’s basketball forward Saniaa Wilson ended the team’s most recent game versus Ohio with a career-high 18 points and 8 rebounds.

Now in her second year with the Orange, Wilson had only reached double-digits in points four times all of last season. She was mainly confined to 10-15 minutes off the bench in 2022-2023, where she occasionally caught fire every now and then. But in the Orange’s last two games, she’s scored a combined 27 points on 9/9 shooting versus Northeastern and Ohio (both of which saw Syracuse win by 20 points or more).

Syracuse enters its final two non-conference games with a top-30 scoring offense in the NCAAW this season. After faltering inconsistency in non-conference play doomed the Orange last year, the Orange currently sit with an 8-1 record and five straight wins. The lone loss: a two-point road defeat to then-ranked Maryland.

The positive energy is through the roof, and it clearly shows in how fired up coach Felisha Legette-Jack was after the win against Ohio:

One of the biggest question marks for the Orange heading into the 2023-2024 season was how much scoring help there would be around All-ACC guard Dyaisha Fair. Departures over the offseason, namely Dariauna Lewis and Teisha Hyman, left gaps that needed to be filled. While Fair did shine in her first season with the Orange, Syracuse became noticeably dependable on her reaching 20 points to beat some of the better teams in the ACC.

This time around, things are a bit different.

Including Wilson, six total players are roughly scoring between 8 and 19 points per game for the Orange this season: Fair (18.7), Georgia Woolley (14.5), Alaina Rice (12.9), Alyssa Latham (10.8), Kyra Wood (7.9) and Wilson (7.9). The offense is pretty much equally as successful as it was last season, but the scoring load is clearly not as much on Fair anymore.

For context, Syracuse produced the 37th-best scoring offense in the country in 2022-2023 (74.2 points per game). That same season, Fair scored 19.9 points per game — seven points more than the team’s second-leading scorer (Woolley) and approximately 27% of the Orange’s total points per game. That’s also without factoring in Fair’s team-high 4.2 assists per game last year.

So far this season, the Fair-Woolley backcourt continues to lead the Orange in scoring but the volume and production remains more distributed among the rest of the team. The margin between Fair and Woolley in scoring is half of what it was last year. Fair is still scoring around 19 points per game, but she’s contributing just 23% of the Orange’s 81 points per game this season.

Syracuse v Florida State Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Fair continues to be vital if the Orange want to continue being an elite scoring offense — in all but one game this year, she’s been the team’s best or second-best scorer.

The depth Syracuse currently boasts, however, means the team has a greater to chance to win some games even if Fair isn’t scorching hot and forced to shoulder much of the load on offense. It also makes the Orange more dangerous — multiple players can get hot at once, and no team can really prepare for that.

In Syracuse’s nine games so far this year, seven different players have finished top-three in scoring for Syracuse at least twice: Fair, Woolley, Rice, Latham, Wood, Wilson and Sophie Burrows.

The slightly lighter role also means Fair’s efficiency continues to remain impressive. Even with Fair currently averaging a career-low in points, she’s averaging a career-high in field goal percentage (43%), three-point percentage (43%), free throw percentage (95%) and turnovers (1.8 per game).

Syracuse enters the winter tied for the third-best scoring offense in the ACC as conference play begins in around two weeks. Yes, the defense (6th in ACC, 105th in NCAAW) will need to prove it can be consistent especially against some of those tougher conference opponents. Of course, there are still 20 regular season games and an ACC Tournament left to get through.

Yet, this team is flashing its potential at just the right time. The depth looks good all across the board, the offense remains electric and the team chemistry is unsurpassed.

And if some of the support players like Wilson can continue to shine, expect the Orange to continue making some noise in the spring.