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Syracuse women's basketball looks to secure a signature win in the home stretch at VT

Dyaisha Fair (White #2) dribbles past a Virginia defender.
Dyaisha Fair in Syracuse’s game against Virginia.

Time is running out for Syracuse women's basketball to secure a top-25 win. Emily Shiroff previews one of SU's final regular season opportunities as the Orange head to Virginia Tech.

Coming off a chaotic loss to Louisville in the Dome, Syracuse will head to Blacksburg to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies are currently the thirteenth-ranked team in the nation in the AP poll.

The matchup against Louisville saw the Orange unable to clear a season-long hurdle: the second half of the game. A number of Syracuse’s losses can be attributed to lackluster second halves, particularly fourth quarters, during which the Orange break down on both ends of the court.

Despite the loss, Dyaisha Fair earned ACC Player of the Week honors. Prior to her 19-point, 7-14 performance against the Cardinals, Fair tied a program record with eight threes against Virginia. She went 5-7 against Louisville, as well.

The injury bug bit Syracuse hard against Louisville. Alaina Rice, Dyaisha Fair and Teisha Hyman all left the game with injuries at one point or another, with Hyman never returning to the floor. Asia Strong was unavailable for the game as well, leaving Syracuse without one of their most reliable players off the bench.

Head Coach Felisha Legette Jack said during media availability this week that Strong will not be available against the Hokies, but Fair and Rice will play. She did not give a clear answer about Teisha Hyman but discussed Kennedi Perkins at length, suggesting she may take over some of Hyman’s typical minutes. Perkins played 24 minutes against Louisville, a season-high by far.

Heading into their game in Blacksburg, the Orange are still without a top-25 win despite playing many elite opponents down to the final minutes, or even seconds, of the game. As time ticks away for the Orange to secure such a win, games like this one become all the more critical as Selection Sunday looms large.

As of Thursday afternoon, Syracuse is not listed in ESPN’s NCAA Tournament bracketology. They were previously a bubble team, but after several losses, the Orange have lost their spot in the projected tournament field. However, Omni Rankings currently has Syracuse solidly in the Women’s NIT.

Of course, these are only projections, but they still serve as a decent indicator of where Syracuse stands in terms of having a postseason. The WNIT is undoubtedly the more likely scenario at the moment, but if the Orange can get hot in the home stretch of the season, the NCAA Tournament is not out of the realm of possibility.

Kennedi Perkins (White #1) communicates with her teammates as she dribbles down the court.
Kennedi Perkins in Syracuse’s game against Louisville.

Virginia Tech comes into the matchup projected to be a five seed in ESPN’s bracketology. The Hokies have had an impressive season, downing projected tournament teams like UNC, Tennessee, Louisville and Nebraska. The Hokies are currently 17-4, with all four losses coming in conference play. They are 7-4 in the ACC.

Leading the way for the VT offense is Elizabeth Kitley, a six-foot-six senior center. Kitley averages 20 points per game at home, along with 12.2 rebounds and two blocks. Most importantly, however, she shoots 60.3% from the field, better than every player who regularly gets minutes for Syracuse by a wide margin.

Aside from her scoring abilities, Kitley’s size is a massive threat to Syracuse in terms of rebounding. At six-foot-six, Kitley will challenge Syracuse’s bigs like few others have this season.

Junior guard Georgia Amoore is another that Syracuse will have to contain. Amoore averages 15.3 points per game at home and leads her team in assists, averaging 6.2 at home. While she does not have the intimidating size of Kitley, her ability to facilitate offense will push Syracuse to play pesky, aggressive defense.

Out of all Division I teams, VT allows the 40th fewest points on average, with 57.6 points allowed per game. The only ACC team above them is Duke. Syracuse? Well, it ranks 246th and allows opponents to score 66.7 points per game on average. No ACC team falls below them in the defensive rankings.

To make this game competitive, the Syracuse bench will have to be better than it was against Louisville. Aside from Georgia Woolley, who basically replaced the injured Alaina Rice and Teisha Hyman, no player off the bench scored more than eight points. Seeing that Coach Legette-Jack has been toying with the starting lineup lately, it’s very possible that starter-caliber players will be available off the bench.

The game is set to tip off at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.