The first game as an AP top 25 program for Syracuse this year went everything but well for the #25 Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (11-2, 1-1), who lost to the North Carolina Tar Heels (10-4, 2-0) 75-71 on the road in what became the Orange’s largest defeat of this season.
Not much went well for Syracuse on either end of the court on Thursday night, as the Orange never led during the entire game and trailed by as much as 28 points late to the Tar Heels. The Orange shot a ghastly 30% (21/71) from the field, including 6/30 from three, and the team produced its lowest number of points this year and second-fewest total points in a game in the Felisha Legette-Jack era.
Dyaisha Fair scored 17 points to lead the Orange, albeit on an inefficient shooting night (7/22 from the field). Alyssa Latham cooled off from her performance against Notre Dame but still ended with 11 points and 11 rebounds in 33 minutes.
Kyra Wood also chipped in 8 points on 4/5 shooting. The starting duo of Georgia Woolley (3 points, 1/10 from the field) and Alaina Rice (5 points, 2/9 from the field) combined to shoot 3/19 overall.
North Carolina was led by the one-two tandem of Maria Gakdeng (game-high 24 points on 9/12 shooting) and Alyssa Ustby — who finished the game with the first triple-double (16 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists) in Tar Heels’ women’s basketball program history (writer’s note: it was just was that kind of day for the Orange). UNC shot 50% from the field with assists on 19 of the team’s 29 total baskets.
Syracuse’s 24-point defeat largely came due to poor offense across the board, but the Orange were settling way too much from the outside. UNC boasts one of the best defenses in the country, and it certainly proved to be the case. Over 40% of Syracuse’s shots in the game were threes, and the Orange attempted just seven free throws all game.
UNC dashed out to an early 7-2 lead and led b as much as eight points in the first quarter. Wood scored the Orange’s first basket for off an assist from Woolley, and some timely shots by Fair kept Syracuse alive early.
Surprisingly, Syracuse still found itself in pretty decent to make a second-half comeback despite its offensive struggles. After UNC took as much as a nine-point lead in the second quarter (32-23), the Orange went on a 7-0 scoring run, forced six North Carolina turnovers and held the Tar Heels to no field goals in the last four minutes of the quarter. Saniaa Wilson and Sophie Burrows each hit a basket off the bench as part of the run, and seven different players ended up scoring for the Orange.
Syracuse trailed 32-30 at halftime despite shooting 12/35 from the field in the first half. But that was a close as it was going to get the rest of the way.
North Carolina outscored Syracuse 25-6 in the third quarter, easily the worst 10-minute stretch all season for the Orange. ‘Cuse shot only 3/20 during the quarter (including nine consecutive misses), while the Tar Heels ended the quarter on a 17-2 run to go up 57-36.
The Orange’s deficit ballooned to as much as 28 points (72-44), and after such a compelling upset against Notre Dame just a few days ago, Syracuse’s strong start officially comes to a sudden halt (as Jon Rothstein would put it: “Anarchy? Nope. Just College Basketball.”)
The loss to UNC was Syracuse’s first since November 19. The Orange also now move to 3-2 in Q1 games.
Syracuse will look to rebound big-time against the Boston College Eagles (8-6, 0-1) back at home on Sunday night.