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Niyah Becker averaged just over 20 minutes heading into Thursday’s game, but she was still able to single-handedly spoil Syracuse’s hopes of a needed road win.
Becker had already tied a season-high 13 points at halftime, leading Wake Forest to an 11-point advantage. She also grabbed six rebounds and shot 5-of-7 from the field — all in just nine minutes.
As the final few seconds of the second quarter ticked away, Jewel Spear heaved a 3-point shot from the right corner, but it bounced off the rim and into traffic, where Becker was the first player to it. She dribbled once and converted the layup as the halftime buzzer sounded.
Plays like those exposed Syracuse’s season-long problems in the paint, proving costly in one of its most winnable Atlantic Coast Conference games of the season.
Syracuse (11-16, 4-13 ACC) fell 76-60 to Wake Forest (14-14, 4-13 ACC), dropping its fourth straight game. The Orange shot 38% from the field and scored just 30 points in the paint, which couldn’t outweigh their 16 turnovers that led to easy baskets in transition for the Demon Deacons.
Becker’s impact showed just how vulnerable Syracuse’s lack of depth is, which proved costly against a similarly struggling team in Wake Forest. The Orange have run with their routine six-man rotation in nearly every game this season, and on Thursday, this lack of depth cost them.
Typically SU’s weakness on the boards is what loses it the contest in the paint. And while that was still an issue against Wake Forest, being outsized is something that’s typically out of the Orange’s control. But on Thursday, almost all of Syracuse’s woes inside were self-inflicted.
In a two-minute span in the second quarter, Syracuse missed three straight layups. But Wake Forest wasn’t making many shots itself, as it only scored four points.
What hurt Syracuse during that span was three turnovers, leading to both Wake Forest field goals during that span. One came off an Alaina Rice pass that was intercepted by Elise Williams, sending Becker on the fast break for a layup. Then Christina Morra scored off an inbound after another Rice turnover helped Wake Forest build its double-digit lead.
Syracuse trailed 8-0 after the game’s first three minutes, but it went on an 8-0 run of its own shortly after. The Orange began making a few 3-pointers to make up for their six first-quarter turnovers. It allowed the Orange to tie the game three times in the opening frame, eventually taking the lead with 90 seconds to go. Syracuse’s deficit ended when Najé Murray intercepted a Williams pass in SU’s zone and took the ball down the court, finding an open Teisha Hyman for a stepback 3 to tie the game at 12.
Hyman scored seven consecutive points to close out the opening frame, which led to a brief 11-second lead as Syracuse finished the first quarter down five. Once again carrying the Orange’s offense, Hyman’s scoring total reached 15 at the half as she scored half of SU’s 12 points in the second quarter, including a stepback jumper that kept Syracuse’s deficit from falling into double digits.
Still, the rebounding inside, which has plagued Syracuse all season, once again factored into its deterioration, proving costly both offensively and defensively. It’s why the Orange had as much trouble scoring their own layups as they did preventing those from the Demon Deacons. Of Wake Forest’s 39 first-half points, 11 came on second-chance plays, while Syracuse recorded none.
The game’s first field goal came off an offensive rebound by Morra, who put away the second chance layup on a missed 3 from Williams in the right corner. Then, after Hyman tied the game at 12, Becker pulled Wake Forest back in front after securing the rebound off her own missed jumper and scoring the putback layup. Becker finished the game two rebounds shy of a double-double while Morra recorded double-figures in points and rebounds, including a career-high 21 points.
Turnovers allowed Wake Forest to extend its lead to as many as 23 points in the third quarter. Spear, the ACC’s leading scorer at 18.6 points per game, scored a 3-pointer to begin the quarter. Then Christianna Carr threw away the ball a minute later to Spear and Spear took the ball down the court and scored a pull-up jumper to put the Demon Deacons up 16, as the Orange once again struggled to score out of the gate.
“We knew that we could turn them over, but we probably could’ve turned them over a little bit more,” acting head coach Vonn Read said. “But we can’t give them right back.”
After Syracuse’s win over Pittsburgh on Jan. 30, Murray said that a late-season run would be contingent on drawing turnovers from its opponents.
“We’re going to go on a pretty big stretch here if we can make every team turn the ball over 20 times a game,” Murray said.
While Wake Forest conceded 17 to the Orange’s 16, the Demon Deacons scored 20 points off turnovers. SU, the ACC’s best stealing team, couldn’t use that to their advantage, leading to the eventual defeat.
The post Syracuse loses 4th straight game 76-60 at Wake Forest appeared first on The Daily Orange.