Women's basketball preview: Syracuse visits the Comcast Center

Judy Tarter

In the middle of a three game home stand, the Terps look to keep pace with Notre Dame and Duke at the top of the ACC.

The sixth ranked Maryland Terrapins will look to improve to 3-0 in ACC play when they host the Syracuse Orange Thursday night at Comcast Center. The Terps are coming off a 76-49 win over Wake Forest last week while the Orange rallied from a late seven point deficit to top Georgia Tech 76-70 garnering their first ACC win and moving to 1-2 in conference play.

Thursday's matchup will be only the third meeting between the schools. Maryland leads the all-time series 2-0 with the last win coming in a 74-49 decision at Cole Field House in 1984.

As for the current version of the Orange, they opened the season with eight straight wins including an upset of then twelfth ranked Texas A&M in the finals of the Paradise Jam earning them. The win earned them appearance in the top twenty-five. After losing by six at number twenty-five Iowa in the ACC / B1G Challenge they responded by winning three straight and peaked at number twenty. The Orange dropped their final non-conference matchup losing by three at number 24 Arizona State after holding a 37-30 halftime lead.

The ACC then gave one of its three newest members a rude awakening. Syracuse fell 67-61 at North Carolina State before hosting second ranked Duke. The Blue Devils drubbed the Orange 86-53.

Sophomore guard Brittney Sykes leads Syracuse in scoring at 17.6 per game followed closely by another sophomore guard - Brianna Butler - who registers sixteen points per game. Butler is the main outside threat for the Orange with 57 made three pointers for the season. She shoots at a 40% clip from behind the arc and made seven in Syracuse's comeback win against Georgia Tech. The Orange are led on the inside by 6'3" redshirt senior Shakeya Leary who averages 9.5 points and 9 rebounds. Point guard Rachel Coffey, who leads the team in assists dishing out just over four per game, and Dutch freshman forward Isabella Slim round out the starting lineup.

The Syracuse roster features two sets of sisters. Briana Day, a 6'4" freshman from Raleigh will be one of the first players off the bench. Her twin sister Bria is not likely to see as much action. Guards Tiara and Tasia Butler hail from North Point High School in Waldorf but will likely not see much action. The sisters have the fewest minutes played on the roster. Syracuse also has local connections with Baltimorean La'Shay Taft and Archbishop Spaulding graduate Maggie Morrison. They're also connected to Maryland by assistant coach Kelly Gibson who played for Chris Weller and graduated from College Park in 1999.

Excepting the loss to Duke, Syracuse has been competitive in their other three losses. However, if that game is an indicator the Terps size and depth should allow them to dominate in the paint and on the boards. Duke out rebounded Syracuse by 13 and held a 56-20 edge in points in the paint. I'd expect to see Syracuse play zone to try to negate that advantage but if Shatori Walker-Kimbrough and Katie Rutan keep up their hot three point shooting they will open up the inside for Maryland.

One are of concern could be turnovers. The Terps will have to focus on protecting the ball as the Orange force nearly 21 turnovers per game. In the end, Maryland's depth, size and talent should secure a comfortable win.

Game-time: 8:30 p.m. Thursday

How to watch: The game will air locally on Comcast SportsNet and on regional sports networks elsewhere. It is also available on ESPN3 but blacked out throughout the ACC footprint. (This includes you, Indiana.)

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