Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (14-6, 5-3) had their worst performance of the season without their best player, Demetrius Jackson, who sat out nursing a sore hamstring.
Still, I think most Irish fans expected better than this effort, as Notre Dame was barely competitive and had just about conceded the game to the Syracuse Orange (14-8, 4-5) midway through the first half.
Notre Dame had the game's first five points, but it was all Syracuse from there, as they went on something like a 24-1 run (I really don't want to look up the real number) to put the game pretty much out of reach before the halftime buzzer even sounded. Only a Steve Vasturia halfcourt three at the buzzer kept the deficit under 20 for the Irish.
Again, Notre Dame scored the first five points in half number two, but again, that was about all the momentum they could muster. Syracuse relatively easily extended their lead and turned it into a laugher the rest of the way, with the Irish unable to sustain any sort of run that might put the game in question.
Notre Dame shot terribly from everywhere, including from three, where they were pretty much open most of the night, and from the free throw line, where defense is not allowed. Add in all those turnovers, and it was just a recipe for disaster.
Notre Dame also defended terribly in every conceivable way. The attempts at a zone were an absolute joke. The defensive rebounding was poor (just 58% DREB rate). The three-point line was readily available, but somehow so was the lane.
It was just an embarrassing performance entirely and had the look of a team that can absolutely drop a home game against Wake Forest on Sunday to put them back on the NCAA Tournament bubble before embarking on the most difficult four-game stretch of the season.
V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia were the only real threats offensively, going for 22 and 16, respectively. Syracuse shut down the two bigs, Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson, from doing anything in the normal flow of the offense with any regularity.
Matt Ryan continued his shooting woes of late with a tough, tough 2 of 9 night from behind the three-point line, including misses in his first 7 attempts. Rex Pflueger, taking Jackson's spot in the lineup, didn't score his two points until there was 2:23 left in the game, right before Mike Brey emptied his bench.
You'll never guess who led Syracuse in scoring, though. Yep, that's right, Trevor Cooney with 22 points (although 7 of 17 isn't really anything to write home about).
Notre Dame needs a bounce-back on Sunday against Wake Forest at home, otherwise the rest of this season starts to look a little dicey with the Miami-UNC-Clemson-Louisville stretch that awaits. More than that, though, they need their point guard and best player back. Let's hope Jackson's hamstring has had the chance to really heal and he can get back out there soon.