Dyaisha Fair keeps Syracuse’s NCAA run alive

Fair keeps Syracuse’s NCAA run alive

Fair went for 32 points as the Orange defeated the Arizona Wildcats in the first round.

Courtney Blakely #1 of the University of Arizona Wildcats defends Dyaisha Fair #2 of the Syracuse University Orange during the first round of the 2024 NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament held at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on March 23, 2024 in Storrs, Connecticut.
Arizona’s Courtney Blakely defends Syracuse guard Dyaisha Fair during the first round of the 2024 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament held at Harry A. Gampel Pavilion on Saturday.

“That’s not who we are,” ACC Coach of the Year Felisha Legette-Jack said after Syracuse women’s basketball crashed out of the ACC Tournament in the quarterfinals against Florida State.

On Saturday, the No. 6 Orange began its NCAA Tournament campaign with a comeback 74-69 win against the No. 11 University of Arizona to save its post-season.

Graduate guard Dyaisha Fair‘s 32-point performance, her fourth 30-point game of the season, made the win possible. Though the Orange didn’t lead for the bulk of the game, Syracuse grabbed its first lead in the fourth quarter courtesy of sophomore guard Kennedi Perkins.

A nine-point run in the quarter and 21 second-half points from Fair were too much for Arizona to handle, and the Orange advanced.

Here are three takeaways from the Orange’s narrow win:

Fourth-quarter Fair

As both teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 51-51, Syracuse faced the terrifying possibility of finishing the game without Fair, who limped off the court at the end of the third period.

Ultimately, Fair came on a few minutes into the final quarter and made the game her own.

Fair was a walking bucket in the last few minutes. With her team down five and minutes away from elimination, she singlehandedly outscored Arizona 13-3 to finish the game. With a minute and a half left on the board, Fair pulled up to the three-point line, took a dribble and sank a three to give Syracuse a 66-65 lead. 

Fair has been the Orange’s star this season, leading similar comebacks throughout the regular season. The fifth-highest all-time NCAA women’s basketball scorer’s monster fourth quarter extends her final season of college hoops for at least one more game.

Doing the little things

Syracuse and Arizona both had similar scoring percentages from the field and the three-point line. Since neither team significantly outperformed the other shooting-wise, rebounds and turnovers were key to the Orange’s win.

In the first half, Syracuse turned the ball over 13 times compared to Arizona’s seven. The Orange tightened up its play as the game went on, and turned the ball over only four times in the second half. Arizona ended the game with 21 total turnovers, many of which came during Syracuse’s dominant fourth quarter. 

Syracuse also had a great rebounding game. Rebounds have been a focus for the Orange all season, and after poor performances on the boards, including a loss to Duke, Legette-Jack promised the team would emphasize improvement.

Against Arizona, the Orange’s intensity to retrieve the basketball was on full display, as it out-rebounded Arizona 37-32.

Earning the easy points

If Syracuse did anything right, it was drawing fouls.

The Wildcats’ foul total was double the Orange’s, 22-11. The Orange were in the bonus through the fourth quarter, and Arizona had to adjust its game plan around keeping players out of foul trouble.

Esmery Martinez, who fouled out in the fourth quarter, played limited minutes toward the end of the game after getting her fourth foul. Skylar Jones, who had an impressive 24-point game, and Jada Williams each ended the game on four personal fouls.

The Orange’s ability to draw fouls was key to its late explosion. As Fair’s heroics sealed the game, Arizona’s fouls gave Syracuse opportunities to set up offensively and widen its lead at the free-throw line.

The win was Legette-Jack’s first-ever NCAA Tournament victory as Syracuse’s head coach and the team’s first since 2021. The Orange will face the University of Connecticut on Monday in the round of 32. Tip off is yet to be determined.