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Syracuse women's basketball advances to second round of WNIT with 84-56 win over Kent State

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Dyaisha Fair takes a jump shot during warmups prior to SU's WNIT win over Kent State.

Top-seeded Syracuse women’s basketball (19-12, 9-9 Atlantic Coast Conference) took care of business in its first-round matchup of the WNIT against Kent State (21-10, 12-6 Mid-American Conference). The 84-56 win marked the first postseason win for the program under head coach Felisha Legette-Jack’s leadership.

Despite a relatively even first 20 minutes, Syracuse exploded in the second half, leading by as many as 25 points in the later stages of the game. SU’s multi-pronged offensive approach became too much for Kent State’s defense to handle, allowing four of Syracuse’s players to finish with more than 10 points.

The star of the show, unsurprisingly, was guard Dyaisha Fair. She looked every bit like the All-ACC First Team guard, knocking down 10 of her 19 shots from the floor for a total of 24 points. Some would consider this a bounce-back performance for Fair, as she only scored 11 in her team’s blowout loss to NC State in the ACC Tournament.

Fair has now notably hit double digits in the scoring column in every game this season for a grand total of 31 consecutive double-digit scoring performances. Coach Legette-Jack knew that Fair was about to do something special.

“I saw that Dyaisha looked a certain way before the game. I haven’t seen her look that way since Buffalo,” Coach Legette-Jack said. “I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen. I might have to sub her out early, or she’s getting ready to do what she do.’ I didn’t think anybody on the court could stop her. Nobody on the court was better than her.”

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Dariauna Lewis shoots a three in front of Kent State’s Casey Santoro in SU's WNIT victory.

Behind Fair was forward Dariauna Lewis, who earned her fourth hard hat of the season for her 17 points and 12 rebounds against the Golden Flashes. This marks her 12th double-double of the season, the most of anyone on the team by far.

“I was just locked in,” Lewis said of her performance. “I knew I couldn’t just settle for jump shots. So, I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do some post moves today!’”

Syracuse, who was in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid until the Selection Show wound down, took care of business on both ends of the floor, largely because of Lewis’ defensive effort. The fifth-year forward recorded two blocks on top of her eight defensive boards.

Georgia Woolley and Teisha Hyman were the other two members of the Orange squad that hit double digits, tallying 13 and 10 points, respectively. Hyman recorded five assists, as well.

Woolley, who just cleared concussion protocol, took a very hard fall shortly before halftime and had to be helped to the locker room by the team’s training staff. Luckily for the Orange, she returned for the second half of action, serving as a key facilitator in their offensive scheme.

For the Golden Flashes, it was Katie Shumate leading the way with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Casey Santoro was the only other Kent State player to hit double digits with 13 points. Their primary three-point threat, Santoro attempted eight threes, knocking down three. Her team took an astounding 27 shots from distance but only netted seven.

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Georgia Woolley watches her shot on its way to the basket with her team behind her in SU's WNIT win over Kent State.

For several members of the Syracuse team, any game could be their last, as they will be out of college eligibility after this season. Dariauna Lewis is one of those players, and she detailed what the opportunity to keep playing with her team means to her as they continue their postseason run.

“In my room, I be crying thinking about it because I’m about to be done playing in college,” Lewis said. “But I feel like every day is a blessing to still be here playing.”

Should she choose to do so, Dyaisha Fair could return to Syracuse as a fifth-year senior because of the extra year of eligibility granted to all athletes impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. She has not yet publicly announced what her plans are after this season, but Coach Legette-Jack has stated multiple times throughout the season that she would be thrilled to see Fair return for one last year.

Next up for the Orange is either Seton Hall or St. John’s. Those two teams will face off at 7 p.m on Thursday. The date, time, location and broadcast availability of that matchup is yet to be announced.