UNC Women's Basketball looks to slow down red-hot Syracuse

The UNC women's basketball program looks to prove they belong back in the top 25 as they get set to host No. 25 Syracuse on Thursday night.

2023 Invesco QQQ Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase - Connecticut v North Carolina
2023 Invesco QQQ Basketball Hall of Fame Women's Showcase - Connecticut v North Carolina / G Fiume/GettyImages

When the first 2024 AP Top 25 polls came out earlier this week, it was surprising to see the UNC women's basketball program fall out of the rankings.

Riding a three-game winning streak, the Tar Heels fell to the first team off the list, as ACC rival Syracuse jumped them among the most recent top 25 teams.

Of course, the Orange have been playing tremendous basketball, starting the season with an 11-1 record while currently riding an eight-game winning streak. What better way for the Tar Heels to prove they belong then to slow down Syracuse on Thursday night in Chapel Hill.

. 11-1. 445. ACCNX. Thursday, January 4. UNC/Cuse. 441. 6:00 PM EST. 9-4

Key to Victory for North Carolina

Syracuse hasn't had issues putting the ball in the basket so far this season, as they come into this game averaging 81.5 points per-game.

On the contrary, North Carolina hasn't backed down defensively, allowing an average of 56.9 points per-game to their early season opponents.

Something's got to give, right?

For North Carolina, it will be crucial for them to limit Syracuse's open looks behind the arc. Alaina Rice (45.7%) and Alyssa Latham (42.9%) have been highly effective from three-point range, while the Orange's leading scorer, Dyaisha Fair, isn't far behind, shooting just under 40% from deep herself.

The UNC women's basketball program needs to put up a strong defensive effort, as the Orange have scored at least 71 points in each of their first 12 contests (including seven 80+ point efforts).

Something to Watch For

Are things starting to click for North Carolina offensively?

While three-point shooting hasn't been this team's strength, they are coming off their best performance in terms of knocking down three-pointers, as they connected on 11 triples in their recent victory over Clemson.

Lexi Donarski has been the Tar Heels best three-point shooter by far, but can others start connecting from deep as well?

Paulina Paris has been showing off her range of late, as her ability to knock down shots will also help make life easier for the Tar Heels post players to get some space. With a ton of focus on Alyssa Ustby, the Tar Heels should continue to find open shots from around the arc, shots that need to fall in order to win this game.

Projected Starters

No. 1 Alyssa Ustby (Sr. 6-1) 12.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 3.2 apg
No. 2 Paulina Paris (So. 5-9) 6.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.8 apg
No. 5 Maria Gakdeng (Jr. 6-3) 9.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 0.6 apg
No. 20 Lexi Donarski (Gr. 6-0) 11.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg
No. 25 Deja Kelly (Sr. 5-8) 15.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 3.0 apg