Syracuse basketball defeats Kent State in WNIT first round

SU women's hoops defeats Kent State in WNIT first round

First-year coach Legette-Jack wins first postseason game with the Orange.
Published: March 15, 2023 | Updated: March 21st, 2023 at 10:13 am
Dyaisha Fair (2) goes up for a shot against University of Miami in the fourth quarter.
Dyaisha Fair (#2) goes up for a shot against University of Miami in the fourth quarter on Feb. 19 in the JMA Wireless Dome.

Syracuse basketball tangoed back-and-forth Wednesday night with Kent State in the first half, but took control in the second, bringing home the 84-56 win at the JMA Wireless Dome. 

After a one-and-done loss in the ACC Tournament, Syracuse (19-12) missed their chance for a run in the NCAA Tournament. But, first-year head coach Felisha Legette-Jack led her team to its first postseason win in the first round of the 25th annual Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). This marks the first women’s basketball coach in program history to go to the postseason.

Legette-Jack coached against Kent State head coach Todd Starkey in the Mid-American Conference when she was head coach of Buffalo. She knocked his team out of the MAC tournament in 2021 and now the WNIT this year.

The Golden Flashes (21-11) maintained control for the majority of the first quarter and kept Dyaisha Fair, who received All-ACC First Team and All-Defensive Team honors, to just one point. 

“I just had to revert back to kind of who I was before coming here,” Fair said of playing at Buffalo against MAC teams like Kent State. “Just seeing the name and knowing where they came from is where I came from…something clicked.”

Forward Dariauna Lewis led the struggling Orange in the first half, putting up 10 points and eight rebounds, just shy of a double-double. Fair added 14 points of her own with 13 of them coming from the second quarter.

“I was just locked in,” Lewis said. “I knew that I couldn’t settle for jump shots. I mean obviously I took the ones that I thought I could make, but I knew I couldn’t settle for jump shots. They can’t grow.”

None of the Kent State players scored in the double-digits walking into halftime down 38-29.

Coach Felisha Legette-Jack celebrating during the University of Miami game Sunday afternoon.
SU head coach Felisha Legette-Jack celebrates during the University of Miami game on Feb. 19.

In the third quarter, Syracuse took full control of the game and never looked back.

Redshirt junior Teisha Hyman maneuvered around Kent State defenders as the shot clock dwindled down toward the end of the third quarter, and Hyman shot a jumper to extend SU’s lead to 20 in a 12-4 run.

Four SU players ended the game with double-digit points: Fair (24), Lewis (17), Georgia Woolley (13) and Hyman (10). Lewis also recorded a double-double with 12 rebounds.

Fair more than doubled her points in this game compared to SU’s most recent loss against No. 8 N.C. State in the first round of the ACC tournament where Fair totaled just 11 points.

The Golden Flashes were severely unsuccessful from above the arc with Kent State’s all-time three-point leader Lindsey Thall going 0-for-8. As a team, the Golden Flashes went just 7-for-27 in 3-pointers. 

Kent State made two more threes than the Orange, but Syracuse stayed active in the paint, tallying 48 points. 

With around five minutes left in the game, Legette-Jack started putting in more bench players. She ended the game utilizing every available bench player with everyone scoring at least one point a piece. 

This was the Orange’s first postseason game since 2021 in the NCAA Tournament, and the program’s first postseason game at the Dome since 2019.

Next up, Syracuse will play the winner of Seton Hall and St. Joseph’s, who play at 7 p.m. Thursday. Location of the second round game will be released after the Seton Hall-St. Joseph’s game.

“This is where the fun begins is right now,” Legette-Jack said. “Not everybody’s playing right now and so to get this win against anybody is really monumental, and our hope is that we keep on, you know, squeezing the juice out of the orange for five more games, one game at a time.”