Women's Basketball

Syracuse women’s basketball opponent preview: What to know about Iowa State

Jeff Anderson | Staff Photographer

Syracuse has never played Iowa State in program history.

No. 8 seed Syracuse (21-10, 11-5 Atlantic Coast) opens up the 2017 NCAA tournament against No. 9 Iowa State (18-12, 9-9 Big 12) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in Storrs, Connecticut. After a quarterfinal exit in the ACC Tournament, the Orange looks for a win to jumpstart its journey back to where it finished the 2015-16 season: the national championship.

Here’s what to know about the Cyclones ahead of Saturday’s matchup in Connecticut.

All time series: This is the first-ever meeting between the two sides

The Iowa State report: The Cyclones are a 3-point shooting team, much like SU. They have hit 240 3-pointers on the season, and the 3-point shot has accounted for nearly 33% of the Cyclones’ 2224 points this season. Iowa State also has three of the top-10 scorers in the Big 12, with Seanna Johnson (15.6 points per game), Bridget Carleton (15.2), and Jadda Buckley (14.0).

Iowa State has three top-25 wins on the season, most recently topping then-No. 6 Texas, 70-66, on Feb. 24. The Cyclones lost their first game of the Big 12 Tournament, dropping a 74-67 contest against No. 24 Kansas State on Mar. 4, which came on the heels of a five-game win streak to end conference play.

The Cyclones excel from the charity stripe. Iowa State ranks third in the nation in free throw percentage, posting a margin of 80 percent heading into Saturday’s game. Johnson is one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation when it comes to drawing shooting fouls; the senior is fourth in school history in free throws made (392) and fifth in free throws attempted (516).

Iowa State has never won more than three games in an NCAA tournament in program history.

How Syracuse beats Iowa State: SU needs a well rounded effort to not only be successful against the Cyclones, but to make it far in the tournament as a whole. Behind the nation’s leading scoring backcourt in Brittney Sykes and Alexis Peterson, the Orange has seen both stellar games and awful games from its supporting cast of center Briana Day and 3-point specialist Gabby Cooper.

In games this season where Briana Day made at least five field goals, SU is 13-2. To beat the Cyclones, a team whose tallest player is only 6-foot-3, the 6-foot-4 center will have to be active down low and complement the usual two-headed attack of Sykes and Peterson. Day is also shooting 74% from the foul line on the season, and would benefit the Orange immensely if she gets to the line often on Saturday.

Cooper needs to answer all of the Cyclones’ attempts to set the pace with 3-point shooting. The freshman calls herself a crowd player, and will have to feed off of her first-ever NCAA tournament environment to be successful behind the arc. She has taken 263 3-pointers on the season, and expect her to take at least 10 on Saturday if the Orange is to be successful against the Cyclones.

Stat to know: 200 3-pointers

The Cyclones have hit at least 200 3-pointers in every season since 2003-04, an NCAA-record 14-straight years. Iowa State has cashed in 240 3-pointers this season, and SU also enters the contest with a 3-point persona behind 277 3-balls on the season. Saturday’s game will almost certainly go to the team that shoots a higher percentage from behind the arc.

Player to watch: Seanna Johnson, Guard, No. 12

Johnson leads the Cyclones in points per game (15.6) and rebounds (8.1), and also averages 2.9 assists per contest. She’s eighth in school history in points with 1,624, and earned an all-Big 12 honorable mention this season. Last season, Johnson was the smallest player in the country to average at least nine rebounds per game, and the senior is second in school history with 32 career double-doubles.

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