The Longhorns are headed to the Virgin Islands to play in the Paradise Jam Tournament on Thursday. But the vacation atmosphere will not be reflected on the court.
Syracuse — a team not ranked in the top 25, but receiving votes — is Texas’ first opponent.
Last week, the Longhorns almost pulled off a major upset over Stanford, but surrendered their lead late in the second half as the Cardinal made an extended run to down Texas 63-54.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” junior forward Nneka Enemkpali said. “We had an opportunity to win, but we didn’t come out energized in the second half, and in the past, we didn’t do what we needed to in order to help our team win.”
Despite the defeat, Texas performed better than expected against Stanford and gained a valuable lesson against tough opponents — they must play 40 minutes with maximum energy.
The lesson could not have come at a more opportune time, as the Orange usually start fast. In Syracuse’s most recent game versus Maine, the Orange began by outscoring the Black Bears 27-2 and won the game by 55 points.
Syracuse is consistently a high-scoring team, averaging 91.2 points per game — the only time Texas scored more than that average was against Texas State — partially because of their accuracy. The Orange shoot 42.2 percent from the field compared to Texas’ 39.7 percent.
The Longhorns must focus their attention on Syracuse’s Brittney Sykes, an explosive guard and the Orange’s leading scorer.
Look to senior Chassidy Fussell, only the fifth player in Texas history to lead the team in scoring for three consecutive seasons, to have a big game. Fussell was named to the Naismith Trophy Early Season Watch List on Monday. The list recognizes 50 of the best players in the nation, serving as a precursor for the player of the year award.
Texas will also play No. 12 Texas A&M and Memphis in the tournament.