Orange complete another comeback to down Georgia Tech

SU completes another comeback against GT

Syracuse used yet another comeback to earn its first win over the Yellow Jackets since 2018.

Alternative Text
Syracuse’s Izabel Varejão and Kyra Wood celebrate a foul call in the dying minutes of the game vs Georgia Tech on Feb. 8, 2024, in JMA Wireless Dome.

The No. 23 Syracuse women’s basketball team shrugged off yet another rocky first half to beat Georgia Tech in a 62-59 struggle Thursday night at the JMA Wireless Dome. 

A strong defensive performance by the entire team was complimented by clutch offense from graduate center Izabel Varejao — who returned to the court for the first time since December after suffering an undisclosed injury — and resilient showings by team leaders graduate guard Dyaisha Fair and freshman forward Alyssa Latham.

The game took on added significance as the teams donned pink uniforms on Play4Kay Night to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Here are three takeaways from another cardiac Cuse victory.

Sluggish Start 

Something was just off for Syracuse in the first half. Despite Fair starting the night with a silky smooth 3-pointer followed up by an equally smooth pull-up jumper from the free throw line, buckets seemed hard to come by. 

Fair initiated the offensive with ease, prodding Georgia Tech’s defensive and orchestrating plays. Each of the starting five passed crisply, but there was a lack of spacing at times and shots just didn’t fall, despite the team shooting 53.8% (7-13 (1-4 3-PT)) at the end of the first period. 

That said, a stingy defense made everything hard for Georgia Tech. The 23rd-ranked Orange asserted themselves, pressing The Yellow Jackets in the half-court, contesting shots, scrambling to cover for each other, and locking down defensive rebounds. They ended the first half having rebounded Tech 21-14, including 6 offensive rebounds. 

Varejao stood out on both ends. She worked repeatedly to find post position, then used a range of moves to find the perfect angle for a short shot and lay up around the rim. She also hustled for rebounds on both ends and communicated on defense. 

But Georgia Tech stuck around. Dedication to running their offense and Syracuse’s sluggish start resulted in a 31-28 lead for The Yellow Jackets at halftime. 

The Rebound 

The second half was a different story. Latham showed what was to come early in the third quarter. As she’s done all season, Latham relentlessly chased rebounds. A Georgia Tech player fouled her after she dove in for an offensive rebound at 8:24 in the third. She sunk her two free throws, tying the game at 30. 

Syracuse shut down Tech’s next offense possession. After the Orange grabbed another defensive board, Fair drove down the court, cut through Tech’s defense, and passed to junior guard Georgia Wooley for a corner three, giving Syracuse a 33-31 lead. Varejao followed that by making a tough layup while sandwiched between two Tech defenders on the next offensive possession. Georgia Tech called a timeout. Syracuse had racked up six points in a little over a minute and turned the momentum. 

Alternative Text
Syracuse’s Izabel Varejão goes for a layup while being double-teamed by Kara Dunn and a teammate in game vs. Georgia Tech on Feb. 8, 2024, in the JMA Wireless Dome.

Georgia Tech responded out of the timeout with four straight points. But Varejao and Latham each quickly scored, giving Syracuse a 39-35 lead. 

Closing Time 

The fourth quarter was hectic. Both teams drove to the rim, kicked out to shooters, and stayed tight on defense. 

Three plays in the final five minutes ultimately sealed the deal for Syracuse. First, Fair made her second three of the night. After helping force a Georgia Tech turnover at midcourt, Fair pushed a solo fast break. Pulling up just above the 3-point line, Fair took a quick look back as both her teammates and Yellow Jackets trailed her, then sunk the three with a Tech defender in her face, giving Syracuse a 56-55 lead. 

Shortly after, sophomore guard Kennedi Perkins sprinted down court to prevent a layup after Georgia Tech forced a Syracuse turnover near halfcourt. Perkins covered nearly twice the distance as the Yellow Jacket player to meet her at the rim. 

Finally, in the last minute, Latham grabbed an offensive rebound and was fouled after Fair missed a free throw. That preserved Syracuse’s 62-59 lead and sealed the game. 

After the game, head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said the team’s resilient performance was in honor of assistant coach Sue Ludwig on Play4Kay night. 

“We really had to fight hard,” she said. “This lady next to me had to fight.” 

February is Cancer Prevention Month. Ludwig beat a cancer diagnosis seven years ago. The team wore pink to show solidarity with the cause. 

Ludwig said tonight was a classic fight in the ACC. 

“Every game in the ACC is a dogfight. You can’t look at the record, right? It goes out the window,” she said. 

Despite the intensity of conference play, Varejao said the coaches’ advice to her has been simple. 

“Just be happy, play your basketball, and see what’s going to happen,” she said. 

The Orange will host No. 15 Louisville on Sunday at The Dome. Tip-off will be at noon.