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The last time Syracuse played Notre Dame, a green layup by Judah Mintz late in regulation gave the Oranges a surprise win to start conference play. At this point, Notre Dame was 6-1 and looking to continue their hot start by earning their first win of the season at the Atlantic Coast Conference. Conversely, Syracuse lost to Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, which featured one of the worst offensive performances of the season.
After losing to Syracuse, the Fighting Irish recorded a 3-6 record, losing to Marquette and Boston College. Conversely, the Orange began a five-game winning streak when they went into action on Saturday night as winners of eight of their last ten games.
Instead of a defensive duel, both teams caught fire from deep. The Orange (12-6, 5-2 ACC) trailed for most of the game, but a late run in the second half propelled them to a 78-73 win over the Fighting Irish (9-9, 1-6 ACC ). .
Here are some observations from Syracuse’s comeback win.
Irish thrive from the deep
In the first game between the two teams, Notre Dame fired 33 of their 60 shots from long range. While they started hot, the Fighting Irish cooled off in the second half, allowing the Oranges to bounce back and eventually steal a win at South Bend. At the start against Syracuse tonight, Notre Dame displayed the same ball-screen offense, using extra passes to get the men open for 3 seconds in both corners. The Orange’s 3-point defense has improved since their early games against teams like Colgate and Bryant, although they still started at No. 151 in full-back, according to KenPom Saturday night.
Typically, Cormac Ryan and Dane Goodwin shouldered Notre Dame’s hits from long range, but Trey Wertz and Marcus Hammond combined to add eight 3s from the bench. The Fighting Irish started slow, missing their first six 3-point attempts, allowing the Orange to keep up. Then, with just under 12 minutes left in the game, Hammond hit a wide-open three from the start and extended ND’s lead to four points – the Fighting Irish’s third win made 3.
Notre Dame finished the first half with nine 3-pointers and a four-point lead going into halftime. Although Syracuse extended their patented 2-3 zone in the same way they did against Virginia Tech, it hardly worked against the Fighting Irish’s sharpshooting.
Maliq Brown contributes from the bench
After recording his first double-double of college last time out against Virginia Tech, Maliq Brown came off the bench early in the first half and made a significant difference. After Notre Dame heated up from the deep, head coach Jim Boeheim sent Brown to replace Benny Williams and provide a defensive spark. The forward would go on to record a career-high in terms of points scored (15).
After Jesse Edwards missed two straight layup attempts just under the basket, Brown threw a put-back dunk after keeping Syracuse’s possession alive on the offensive boards. A few plays later, Brown started the Orange offense by snagging a defensive rebound and delivering an outlet pass to Joe Girard III. At the other end of the floor, Girard went around his defender and converted from glass on a transition layup.
Brown also helps Syracuse by complementing Edwards in color and serving as another option for the offense that loves to score around the basket. At one point, Edwards garnered a feed-in from Girard and was immediately double-teamed. He turned the ball through two defenders to Brown, who went up and flushed home a wide-open dunk.
Syracuse responds with 3s of their own
The Orange isn’t full of 3-point shooters, nor have they found consistency in shooting from deep. The Orange ranks 61st nationally and has a 36% hit rate. Initially, Syracuse tried to keep up with Notre Dame’s 50 percent 3-point shooting performance and barely made a dent. Girard struggled and finished the night shooting just 1-for-5, and Mintz – who rarely finds success from beyond the arc – picked up three missed 3s.
But led by Bell of all people, the Orange ended the first half with a 5-of-13 shot from deep and continued their 38.5 percent first-half performance with a 3-for-6 shot in the second . Coming into the JMA Wireless Dome, Notre Dame allowed his opponents to shoot 32.2% from deep but struggled to adapt to Syracuse’s forwards, who played up and more to the wings. Though frustrated that he didn’t bounce back from forward position, Boeheim opted for a broader offensive approach that opened up Bell and Williams to made 3s on the outside arc.
With less than 10 minutes left in the second half, two 3-pointers helped catapult a late-game run for the Orange that ultimately led to victory. First, Mounir kicked Hima to Bell after a missed 3 from Mintz, and Bell zoomed through a 3-pointer. Then, after JJ Starling missed a corner 3 pointer at the other end, Justin Taylor transitioned back and nailed a 3 himself.
Syracuse wins points in Paint Battle
The Orange took a two-pronged approach to win a second straight game against Notre Dame and force the Fighting Irish to take more 3s than they liked. For them, it was better to let Notre Dame wear themselves out and repeat a poor 3-point performance from the last matchup than allow the Fighting Irish to infiltrate the 2-3 zone. They ended with just 20 points from inside the suit, an area blocked by Edwards and further disrupted by Williams and Brown.
Then on offense the Orange continued to fuel their offensive down through Edwards. Mintz, one of the worst perimeter shooting guards in the country, also pulled into the lane and tried to cause offense. With just under 13 minutes left, Mintz, fresh off a third straight Syracuse turnover, toyed with his defenseman and rocked him back. The SU point guard then drove down the right side of the lane and, after being shoved, started a layup attempt that went into the net. The Orange fell to just nine points, bringing the Syracuse home crowd to life.
Notre Dame found success from inside the paint on only a few possessions, as it was able to break the orange’s full-court press and pull off a fast-break layup. Syracuse, meanwhile, continued to work between Edwards and Hima to catalyze a comeback midway through the second half that led to a nerve-wracking finish on track. With five minutes left in the game, Brown got back-to-back feeds from Mintz and, being so wide open, was able to jump up and knock down two straight dunks to reduce Notre Dame’s lead to just two points.
Published January 14, 2023 at 9:39 p.m
Contact Anthony: [email protected] | @anthonyalandt