And just like that, the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team’s (18-11, 9-9) regular season comes to a close, and in dominant fashion on the road.
Heading into its regular season finale against the Pittsburgh Panthers (10-18, 3-14), the Orange took a leap from “First Four Out” status to “Last Four In” in ESPN’s latest bracketology projections for the 2023 NCAA Tournament. It was the last game in a critical stretch for Syracuse, who hasn’t been in tournament talk until the last month or so of the season.
And it mattered most, ‘Cuse got the job done on the road with an 85-55 victory against Pittsburgh. The Orange outscored the Panthers by 27 points combined in the second and fourth quarters, with Syracuse excelling on both ends of the court consistently in the Thursday night contest.
To put a bow on the end to a wild regular season for year one of coach Felisha Legette-Jack and company, Syracuse finished with a total all-around effort from the team:
Even with typical starting guard Georgia Woolley out of the game due to concussion protocol, the Orange’s reserves stepped up when it mattered most. Kennedi Perkins started for the first time in her career and played well in 14 big-time minutes, while four players finished in double-figures as Syracuse’s offense caught fire with over 53% shooting from the field and 55% (11/20) from three.
Dyaisha Fair led the Orange’s perimeter attack and finished with a game-high 23 points and 6 assists while shooting 8/12 from the field, including 7/10 from three. Teisha Hyman flashed promise of her usual self with an efficient 12-point, 4-assist performance on 6/11 shooting, while the trio of Dariauna Lewis, Asia Strong, and Saniaa Wilson combined for 30 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks in the win.
An early 7-0 saw the Orange surge ahead to begin the first quarter, but a 9-0 run by Pitt allowed the Panthers to briefly take an 18-17 lead after 10 minutes’ worth of game time.
From there, Syracuse caught fire on offense and never looked back. A 17-3 second quarter run saw the Orange take the lead for good the rest of the way, entering halftime ahead 42-28 over the Panthers. Both programs battle back-and-forth as ‘Cuse still led 56-43 with under two minutes left in the third quarter, but the Orange’s offense powered itself with a 24-12 scoring margin in the fourth quarter to ultimately seal the road win.
While the offense propelled Syracuse to the victory, so did the defense. The Orange held the Panthers to under 39% from the field and 20 turnovers, with the team forcing Pitt to shoot 39% or worse in three of the four quarters.
Cuse Nation, thank you all for your support of these amazing student athletes and this incredible staff! We fight hard everyday to represent the BEST school in the Country in the BEST State in the World! Now on to the ACC Tourney w our Cuse Village! ✊— Felisha Legette-Jack (@CuseCoachJack) February 24, 2023
After finishing 11-18 in the 2021-2022 regular season, Syracuse flips its record this year finishing at 18-11 overall, including a .500 record against the ACC after 18 total conference games.
Syracuse also secured its second season sweep (besides Boston College) of the year, its first 30-point victory since December 11, and its first double-digit victory over an ACC opponent since January 26th.
In terms of the Orange’s playoff prospects, the win was a big-time glimpse of dominance on the road, something the team hasn’t been accustomed to for most of the season. Overall, Syracuse looked great on both ends of the court from start to finish, ending its season with arguably its most complete game of the year. It’s a good way for Syracuse to build momentum heading into more conference play.
So, what now? The Orange end the regular season with back-to-back critical wins for the team’s playoff resume. An important home win over the Miami Hurricanes on Sunday couple with a statement 30-point win (even against a bottom-feeder like Pitt) is a much-needed momentum builder as Syracuse waits for the final standings in the ACC over the weekend.
The final 2023 ACC Tournament bracket will be released Sunday evening once all of the weekend’s games are final. As of now, the Orange project to finish as the conference’s eighth-seed in its potential matchup against the ninth-seeded NC State Wolfpack (18-10, 8-9)
TNIAAM community: talk about a big-time win to cap off what’s been an impressive season. Looking forward to the ACC Tournament, how do you think the Orange will fare? Is a tournament appearance going to be solidified in year one of the FLJ era? Leave your thoughts down below.