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Syracuse women’s basketball: what to watch for vs. #10 Notre Dame

As if it weren’t difficult enough...

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

It’s right back to work for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (16-9, 7-7).

The Orange are coming off its most impressive victory yet, a 75-67 home win versus #14 North Carolina. The win against the Tar Heels gave ‘Cuse its first victory over a ranked opponent and its first over a NET top-25 program. It was a huge momentum-swinging triumph against a UNC team projected to be a top-16 program in ESPN’s latest bracketology update.

The reward? An even tougher matchup Sunday afternoon against the #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (19-4, 10-3). The Fighting Irish have the second-best record in the conference and are tied for the second-best overall record in the ACC, with Notre Dame projected to finish as a three-seed in the 2023 NCAA Tournament.

The Orange hope to rebound after falling short 72-56 against the Fighting Irish at home earlier this season.

Tip-off for Syracuse’s road matchup against Notre Dame is at 4 pm EST, with the game also available on the ACC Network.

Here’s what to watch for in round two between the Orange and Fighting Irish:

Question #1: If Dyaisha Fair falls, who rises up?

Syracuse’s offense relies heavily on Dyaisha Fair to produce efficiently, and its record clearly backs that trend. Fair is averaging 22.4 points per game on 43% shooting in the Orange’s 16 wins, but her offensive numbers fall to 16.1 points per game on 32% in its nine losses. Against Notre Dame earlier this season, Fair scored 14 points but on 6/16 (37.5%) shooting from the field.

Outside of Fair and Asia Strong, the Orange struggled to generate good offense with most of the team struggling (Teisha Hyman finished with 4 points on 2/11 shooting and Georgia Woolley had 9 points but on 4/14 shooting). Similar to its game against UNC, at least two players are going to need to step up on offense if the math is going to work in the Orange’s favor.

Question #2: Can Syracuse starve off a second-half collapse?

I’ve made points clear during multiple game analysis pieces (especially against ranked opponents), but the Orange tend to cool off in the last 20 minutes. Despite some bad offense performances overall against elite programs, it’s been the defense that typically struggles to keep going. Against the Fighting Irish earlier this season, Syracuse held Notre Dame to 14/34 shooting from the field and 1/7 from three. In the second half, the Orange gave up 17/30 shooting and a ridiculous 6/11 from three to the Fighting Irish. Defense is going to need to be a constant if the Orange want to pull off a miraculous upset on the road.

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

Question #3: Where can the Orange put its hopes on?

Notre Dame easily ranks as one of the best statistical teams in the ACC across the board. Using a similar playbook to its game against UNC, rebounding will ultimately be the deciding factor. Syracuse can’t afford to give Notre Dame the offense production that stems from losing the 50-50 balls and giving up offensive rebounds.

Syracuse versus Notre Dame preview by the numbers

All-time: Syracuse is 3-37 (!!) all-time against Notre Dame, including 0-18 (!!!) against the Fighting Irish at home.

Last matchup: The Orange fell to the Fighting Irish 72-56 at home on January 15, as Syracuse’s offense cooled in the second half.

Win/loss implications: Coming off an eight-point triumph over #14 North Carolina, a victory would give the Orange back-to-back resume-worthy wins as it continues to build momentum heading into the 2023 ACC Tournament, while a loss would signal a brief return back down to Earth.

Prediction: It’s hard to be optimistic considering the Fighting Irish’s statistical advantage and the Orange’s history of defeats against a dominant Notre Dame program, especially on the road. Keeping the margin close is a victory in itself, but Syracuse will need to count on another big-time performance from Dariauna Lewis on the boards and some hot shooting from its guards to even secure a single-digit win. I have Notre Dame surging ahead 75-62 over ‘Cuse.

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame Team Stats

Statistical Categories Syracuse Notre Dame
Statistical Categories Syracuse Notre Dame
PPG 74.5 76.6
Opponent PPG 67.4 58.2
Margin of Victory plus-7.1 plus-18.4
FG% 42% 46%
Defensive FG% 41% 36%
3FG% 31% 32%
Defensive 3FG% 29% 29%
FT% 72% 72%
RPG 41.5 44.1
APG 14 17.1
T/O 16 14.1
A/T ratio 0.9 1.1
SPG 10.3 8.8
BPG 4.1 5.3