The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

59° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

No. 11 Arizona WBB moves on to the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament to face No. 6 Syracuse

Helena+Pueyo+makes+a+jump+shot+in+the+third+quarter+during+the+Washington+State+game+in+McKale+Center+on+Feb.+16.+Pueyo+made+18+points+during+the+game.+
Gracie Kayko
Helena Pueyo makes a jump shot in the third quarter during the Washington State game in McKale Center on Feb. 16. Pueyo made 18 points during the game.

The No. 11 seed Arizona women’s basketball team has advanced past the play-in First Four round of the NCAA Tournament and now moves into the tournament’s official bracket. The Wildcats are set to face No. 6 seed Syracuse University in the Round of 64 on Saturday, March 23, at 12:30 p.m. in Storrs, Connecticut, in Harry A. Gampel Pavilion.

The Wildcats defeated Auburn University 69-59 on Thursday, March 21, in a wire-to-wire victory, with four out of their five starters scoring in double figures. After this impressive showing from Arizona, it has one day until its next game, while Syracuse’s last game came against Florida State University in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament on Friday, March 8, in which the Orange lost 75-68. Syracuse (23-7, 13-5 in ACC) now heads into this matchup with 15 days since its last official game.

Arizona continues to add to its NCAA Tournament resume with its four straight opening game victories of the NCAA Tournaments and under the leadership of head coach Adia Barnes, the Wildcats are now 8-3 in tournament games.The Wildcats will look to add to this record as they prepare to face the Orange this weekend for the chance to get back to the Round of 32, where their tournament came to a disappointing end last season.

Syracuse’s tournament history  

The Syracuse women’s basketball team does not have the most decorated NCAA Tournament history. The Orange has accumulated a record of 10-12 across 12 appearances. Their journey began in 1985, and since then, they have faced a range of opponents, experiencing both triumphs and heartbreaking defeats.

Throughout its tournament history, Syracuse has faced seven No. 3 seeds or higher. The Orange’s most impressive tournament run came in 2016 when they advanced to the championship game as the No. 4 seed but fell to the No. 1 seed University of Connecticut. Since then, they have been unable to reach past the second round.

Now, Syracuse is returning to the tournament for the first time since 2021, aiming to finish the job it failed to complete in 2016. However, its road to doing so begins with a matchup against Arizona as the Orange looks to overcome its eight-year drought of failing to make it past the tournament’s second round.

Syracuse’s season

Head coach Felisha Legette-Jack became the head coach of the Syracuse women’s basketball program on March 26, 2022. In just her second season, she has already had a significant impact, leading the team to an impressive 43-20 overall record. This year, Legette-Jack was also named the ACC Coach of the Year.

Syracuse’s season has been marked by notable achievements and impressive performances on the court. The team demonstrated its competitive edge by defeating four top-15 teams in ACC play, including the University of Notre Dame twice, FSU and the University of Louisville. Under Legette-Jack’s leadership, Syracuse tied a program record for regular-season wins with 23, and its 17-2 start was the best since the 2012-2013 season.

One of the key players to watch out for on Syracuse heading into this matchup is graduate student guard Dyaisha Fair. Fair leads the Orange in points, assists and steals. Averaging 22 points per game on 39.2% shooting from the field, Fair is also averaging a team-high 3.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game, respectively. Fair’s versatile play has earned her All-ACC First Team honors for the second consecutive season. The second player to watch out for on the Orange is freshman forward Alyssa Latham, who leads the team in rebounds and blocks. Latham’s impressive contributions, averaging 8.7 points per game on 46.6% shooting and her team-high 7.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, have solidified her role as a key player for Syracuse. Latham was also selected to the ACC All-Freshman Team. Latham and Fair remain the backbone of this stout Syracuse team and will be vital if the Orange hope to advance past this weekend in the tournament.

Wildcats to watch 

The player all of Wildcat Nation should be watching out for as the Wildcats prepare to enter the Round of 64 is freshman guard Jada Williams. 

Despite having a season-high five turnovers, she made basically every necessary play throughout their game against Auburn to help Arizona be in the position it’s in now. In Williams’ first-ever tournament game as a Wildcat, she led all scorers with a game-high 17 points and added on three rebounds and two assists as well. 

For the season, Williams averages 9.4 points per game on 35.8% shooting from the field. Despite her averages not being much better in this most recent game, it was her energy, effort and mature play on the court against the Tigers that made her someone the rest of the Wildcats rallied behind early when the veteran players were a bit sluggish to start out the game. 

A first-year player, Williams was not afraid of the moment like so many first-year players on this type of stage have been and led the charge offensively for Arizona until the rest of her team had finally settled in to back her up. This type of confidence after a must-win game is not something that simply goes away, especially given the quick turnaround of these games. Now, when Arizona faces Syracuse this weekend, make sure to keep your eyes on Williams to witness something special from a clearly special type of player for Arizona.

The next player to watch out for this weekend is a household name for Wildcat fans, and that is fifth-year guard Helena Pueyo, who was one of the veterans that started the game off a bit slow in the first half against Auburn. Pueyo only scored 2 points in the first half, but then went on a tear in the second half, scoring 14 of her 16 points to finish. Not only did Pueyo affect the outcome of the game with her scoring, but like so many times before, she was more effective in all facets of the game with four assists, three steals and two rebounds to cap off her first game of this year’s NCAA Tournament.

With this tandem guard unit of Williams’ explosive firecracker play style and Pueyo’s savvy and decisive play style, this dynamic grouping is going to be a lot for any team to handle. However, Syracuse’s task this weekend is going to be that, so everyone tuning into this game should definitely pay attention to these two players from Arizona to see how they will utilize their play styles to get past the Orange.


Follow the Daily Wildcat on Instagram and Twitter/X


 

More to Discover