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Syracuse women's basketball to face NC State in first round of ACC Tournament

Dariauna Lewis and her teammates shoot around in Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC.
Syracuse shoots around in Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, NC.

Syracuse women's basketball clashes with NC State in the eight vs. nine game in the second round of the ACC Tournament. Emily Shiroff previews a potential must-win game for the Orange.

Syracuse women's basketball kicks off its ACC Tournament play against NC State on Thursday. From their regular season play, NC State earned the eight seed and the Orange the nine seed.

Syracuse played NC State once during the regular season in a game that came down to the final few seconds. The Orange were down one with a chance to take the lead with two seconds to play, but Teisha Hyman made a poor inbound pass that sailed over Dariauna Lewis’ head, forcing the Orange to foul. NC State made a free throw to go up two, leaving ‘Cuse with just one second to score, which they could not do.

At the time, NC State was the sixth-ranked team in the nation. They are currently unranked and have been unranked since a loss to UVA in early February.

NC State finished the regular season slate with a win over Pittsburgh, a team Syracuse beat by 30 in its regular season finale. The Wolfpack, though, only beat the Panthers by five points, despite Pitt being one of the worst teams in the ACC.

The Orange have ended their season on a bit of a hot streak. On senior night, they downed a solid Miami team 77-68 in the Dome, and steamrolled Pitt on the road in their final regular season contest.

More importantly, the team is finally healthy. In the second half of the season, Teisha Hyman and Asia Strong, two of Syracuse’s biggest contributors, were bitten by the injury bug. Both missed several games, with both players slowly increasing their minutes during the season's final few games. Both appear to be back at full strength and have played significant minutes in recent contests.

The key to this matchup will be the fourth quarter. Syracuse has let several games slip away because of lackluster fourth quarters, many in conference play. However, this is an issue that the Orange appear to have fixed as of late; they kept up with Miami not just in the fourth quarter, but the entire second half, scoring exactly as many points as the Hurricanes in the final 20 minutes of play.

Additionally, Syracuse’s shooters must be on top of their game. While the Orange have the better team scoring average, NC State is a slightly better shooting team from the field. They also don’t rely as heavily on one scorer as the Orange do with Dyaisha Fair, which makes them difficult to defend against.

Head Coach Felisa Legette-Jack points and directs her players during practice.
Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack directs her players.

Last time around, it was the six-foot-three center Camille Hobby that led the way offensively for the Wolfpack, dropping 12 points. She is a strong, physical player that will certainly challenge Syracuse’s bigs once again and force them to fight for every point and rebound.

Syracuse held NC State to just two made three-point field goals on New Year’s Day. Doing that again would take a good deal of pressure off the Syracuse offense; they’d have to make fewer threes to keep up. Dyaisha Fair, despite her recent hot streak from distance, is not a three-point shooter by trade, so minimizing three-point scoring from NC State will allow Fair to do what she does best: bank lots of two-point field goals.

Lastly, ‘Cuse can not have any starters fail to contribute productive minutes. Their bench is deep and has only gotten better as the season has progressed, but their starters are their core. Back in January, Teisha Hyman did not score in 23 minutes of play, Kyra Wood managed just two points in 31 minutes and Alaina Rice tallied four in 22 minutes of action.

This must be an all-hands-on-deck operation if the Orange want to continue their run in the ACC Tournament and, more importantly, potentially secure a spot in the Big Dance.

The game will tip off at 2:00 p.m. Thursday. It will be broadcast on ACC Network, and the winner will face top-seeded Notre Dame in the third round of the ACC Tournament.