After a devastating 25-point loss to NC State in the 2023 ACC Tournament, the biggest question was how the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (18-12, 9-9) would respond coming off its worst loss of the season.
The Orange answered by securing arguably its most dominant victory of the season in the first round of the 2023 Women’s National Invitation Tournament, defeating the Kent State Golden Flashes (21-10, 12-6) 84-56 and securing the first postseason win for coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
After beginning its matchup against Kent State shooting 5/18 from the field and trailing early, it was an all-out dominant performance by Syracuse in the second, third, and fourth quarters. The Orange outscored the Golden Flashes by 31 points combined in those three quarters, powering Syracuse to a bounce-back home win on Wednesday evening.
Dyaisha Fair finished with 24 points and 6 rebounds on 10/19 shooting from the field and 3/8 from three, while Dariauna Lewis (17 points, 12 rebounds, and 2 blocks) and Georgia Woolley (13 points on 60% shooting) each contributed on both ends of the court from start to finish. Despite initially coming off the bench, Teisha Hyman shined with a solid 10-point, 5-assist performance in 26 minutes off of the bench.
The Golden Flashes came out in a literal flash offensively to begin the game, shooting 50% on two-point field goals and doing a great job slashing to the rim and getting good looks around the basket, as the Orange fell into a quick single-digit deficit at the halfway mark of the first quarter. While Syracuse was 4/12 from the field early, it made up for the shooting inefficiency with an early advantage in offensive rebounds.
Both teams traded baskets back and forth in a first quarter that saw three early ties and three lead changes, with Syracuse trailing by no more than five points (16-11) to Kent State during the first 10 minutes of game time. Despite shooting under 28% from the field, Syracuse only trailed 16-13 after the first quarter as Dariauna Lewis’ 6 points and 5 rebounds kept the Orange afloat.
Syracuse’s offense improved in the second quarter as Dyaisha Fair and Georgia Woolley started to get going, each contributing to the Orange earning their first lead (23-21) since Syracuse scored the first basket of the contest. The biggest difference early was the outside shooting, as timely threes kept Kent State in the game while ‘Cuse began the game missing seven of its first eight three-point attempts, relying mainly on transition opportunities and tough mid-range jumpers.
The Orange took the inside track at the midway point of the second quarter. After trailing 26-25, Syracuse outscored Kent State 13-3 during the rest of the period to take a 38-29 lead heading into halftime, the Orange’s largest lead of the game at this point. Despite some early struggles, the trio of Lewis, Woolley, and Fair combined for 32 of the Orange’s 38 first-half points.
During its second-quarter surge, Syracuse outscored Kent State 25-13 and shot 63% from the field, and forced the Golden Flashes into nine turnovers in the quarter alone. Although the half-court offense wasn’t pretty, the Orange rode strongly in the first half on a 24-12 advantage in points in the paint and a 15-7 margin in points off turnovers.
The Orange ramped their effort up on both ends of the court to begin the second half, with the team taking as much as a 20-point lead (57-37) with under three minutes left to go in the third quarter. Syracuse began the period with makes on eight of its first 12 baskets, including going 3/6 from downtown to extend its lead into double-digit territory.
The Golden Flashes made a few good plays here and there but ultimately couldn’t generate a quality scoring run at any point in the third quarter. Syracuse held a 62-44 lead heading into the fourth quarter, outscoring Kent State 25-16 in what was an offensive clinic for the Orange during the period.
Although Kent State cut the Orange’s lead to as low as 16 points, Syracuse quickly fired back in the fourth quarter and extended its lead to as much as 29 points (79-50), its largest lead of the game with under five minutes left to go. From there, Syracuse coasted the rest of the way and Coach Legette-Jack secures her first postseason win with Syracuse. Now, the Orange will face off in the WNIT second round against the winner of the Seton Hall and Saint Joseph’s game.