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Syracuse women’s basketball: #21 Orange’s offensive struggles loom large in 81-69 loss to #16 Louisville

At least the toughest stretch in the ACC schedule is over with.

Syndication: The Courier-Journal Scott Utterback/Courier Journal / USA TODAY NETWORK

For the second consecutive game, the offense for the #21 Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team (17-4, 7-3) failed to generate enough consistency as the program fell to the #16 Louisville Cardinals (19-3, 8-1) 81-69 on Thursday night at the KFC Yum! Center.

The Orange shot just 36% from the field, but really struggled during the middle of the game as Syracuse went from up by seven points (21-14) to trailing by as much as 15 points (72-57) in the team’s second-straight loss. This is the first Syracuse has dropped back-to-back games this whole season, and the team now moves to a 3-4 versus Q1 opponents.

Dyaisha Fair finished with a game-high 28 points on 10/23 shooting (4/9 from three) and moved to sixth all-time on the NCAA Division I women’s basketball career scoring list. Georgia Woolley scored 15 points on 5/12 shooting and Alaina Rice finished with 14 points on 4/15 shooting. The Orange only managed four points off their bench.

While the Orange did shoot 8/21 (38%) from the three-point line, they struggled pretty much every else. Syracuse shot just 17/48 (35%) on two-pointers and 11/23 (48%) from the foul line.

Four players scored in double-digits for Louisville, led by 21 points from Kiki Jefferson and 18 points from Nyla Harris.

Syracuse did manage to get off to one of its best starts on offense against the ACC this season after Louisville jumped out to a quick four-point lead. At one point, the Orange made eight straight field goals and began the game with an 89% field goal percentage.

Fair and Woolley combined for 15 of the Orange’s 21 first quarter points as Syracuse jumped out to a six-point lead (16-10). Syracuse did cool off however and missed six straight field goals while shooting just 2/7 on free throws in the quarter. Still, the Orange led 21-14 heading into the second quarter.

The Orange started to lose some traction in the second quarter as Louisville got its groove going on offense and went on a 16-2 run. Felisha Legette-Jack was forced to call timeout, but it didn’t stop Louisville from retaking a lead. The Cardinals scored 26 points in the second quarter as the Orange’s seven-point lead turned into as much as an eight-point deficit (40-32).

A layup by Fair at the very end of the first half stopped what was more than a three-minute stretch without a field goal for Syracuse, and the Orange trailed Louisville 40-34 at halftime.

The Fair-Woolley backcourt combined for 23 points, but Louisville shot 57% from the field led by the trio of Nina Rickards (10 points), Nyla Harris (8 points) and Sydney Taylor (7 points).

Louisville continued to move the ball as its offense remain on fire to start the third quarter, but Syracuse notably started the quarter with three three-pointers (two from Rice) to keep the Orange in arm’s reach just when it seemed like the Cardinals were about to go on a run. After trailing by 10 points to start the third quarter, Syracuse cut that deficit down in half by the first media timeout in the half.

Rice and Woolley were the only Syracuse players to knock down field goals during the entire quarter. The Orange went roughly five straight minutes without a field goal, but they also failed to capitalize on free throws which made it tough to muster any comeback. A late field goal by Harris put the Cardinals up 60-47 at the end of the quarter, Louisville’s largest lead of the game up to this point. Syracuse scored just 13 points in the third quarter.

The offensive struggles continued in the fourth quarter as Syracuse never cut its deficit down to more than nine points.

Syracuse finished with a 1-2 record in three straight games against AP top 25 ACC opponents. The Orange will head back north to take on the Boston College Eagles (11-12, 3-7) Sunday afternoon in Chestnut Hill.