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Syracuse women's basketball makes an early ACC Tournament exit, falling 83-58 to NC State

Alaina Rice dribbles between three NC State defenders
Alaina Rice in Syracuse’s game against NC State.

Syracuse women's basketball's March Madness hopes look slim as the Wolfpack destroy the Orange defense yet again. Emily Shiroff recaps SU's shortfalls and what it means for the future.

Once again, Syracuse women's basketball fell short against NC State, but on a much bigger stage this time. The Wolfpack pounded the Orange, earning a resounding 83-58 victory in the second round of the ACC Tournament.

An emotional Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack said it best after the game.

“This was a long year, and we just really have no time to really think about all you’ve been through,” Legette-Jack said. “You kind of sit here, and there’s a possibility it could be over. But it was so rewarding in so many ways.”

The first half was promising; the score at the half was 36-32, well within reach for the Orange. However, like they’ve done many times this season, Syracuse could not string together a productive, efficient second half of play.

The Orange were outscored 51-32 in the second half, allowing NC State to cruise into the third round of the ACC Tournament.

The Wolfpack immediately looked to push the ball inside; both their bigs, Camille Hobby and River Baldwin, are bigger and seemingly stronger than Syracuse’s three-player rotation. Notably, Saniaa Wilson collided head-to-head with an NC State player and was extremely shaky coming off the court. No update is available on Wilson at this time.

That left Asia Strong and Dariauna Lewis to hold down the fort. They were unable to do so, allowing Hobby to drop 16, many of which came later in the contest. Baldwin, who earned most of the minutes in the first half, scored 14 of her own, going a perfect 7-7 from the field. The two combined for 13 boards, as well.

Syracuse’s bigs were unable to measure up. Asia Strong played just nine minutes, but she only recorded one personal foul. The only two shots she took were from distance, both of which she missed. Lewis fared a bit better, but she could not make up for Strong’s lack of productivity. She scored 11 and snagged six rebounds.

Outside the paint, the Wolfpack still outplayed the Orange, but not nearly as badly. Aside from Baldwin and Hobby, three other members of the NC State squad were in double digits: Jakia Brown-Turner with 16, Aziaha James with 10 and Madison Hayes with 10. The team shot 60.7% from the field.

The Orange, on the other hand, shot just 32.8% and an abysmal 15% from three. Leading the way for ‘Cuse was Teisha Hyman with 15. In her first game back from concussion protocol, Georgia Woolley scored 14 points.

Dyaisha Fair (Orange #2) dribbles past an NC State defender.
Dyaisha Fair in Syracuse’s game against NC State.

Dyaisha Fair was not her typical lights-out self. She scored 11 on 4-17 from the field. She did, however, dish out six assists to her higher-scoring teammates.

Fair was visibly displeased during the post-game press conference. She kept her head down and spoke minimally. When asked how she handled the sheer volume of defense NC State allocated to her alone, she had a curt, to-the-point answer.

“I just kept shooting the ball,” Fair said. That would be all she said during media availability.

Her coach kept it positive, choosing to reflect on the season her squad strung together after a hectic, dramatic offseason.

“We did some fantastic things with a team we had to pull together very quickly. So much had to take place to build it,” Legette-Jack said. “We did… we did. We really fought. We figured out a lot of things about ourselves, about each other. We figured out how to fight.”

In terms of the Big Dance, the Orange are the picture-perfect bubble team. A win over NC State would’ve inched them closer to a solid spot in the field, but they are now ESPN’s Charlie Creme’s first team out. Before the matchup, they were his last team in.

While an at-large bid is not impossible, it would require some other bubble teams slipping up and some favorable eyes from the selection committee. If the NCAA Tournament isn’t meant to be, the Orange are practically shoe-ins for the NIT. On top of that, they’ll likely be one of the top seeds in the NIT should that be their postseason route, meaning they will host games until they face a higher seed.

Should the Orange make the NCAA Tournament or NIT, Head Coach Felisha Legette-Jack would be the first coach in Syracuse women’s basketball program history to lead their team to a postseason in their first year.

The NCAA Tournament selection show will air on March 12 at 8:00 p.m. on CBS.