Coming off its first ACC win of the season earlier this week, Notre Dame men’s basketball headed to New York for a chance at revenge against Syracuse. What looked like it would be a second straight win for the Irish (9-9, 1-6 ACC) and a potential steppingstone to a bounce-back run in the conference turned into a choke job. The Orange (12-6, 5-2 ACC) pulled off a 12-point comeback in the second half to sweep the regular season series.
As with any matchup between these two teams, Notre Dame’s love of the three-pointer and Syracuse’s addiction to the 2-3 zone created a bizarrely perverse game of basketball. It’s not that the product was unwatchable, but there’s just something off-putting about two teams whose gimmicks appear almost symbiotic: the Orange zone inevitably rotates and gives the Irish an open three which they happily take.
At least, that’s how the start of the game played out. Notre Dame missed its first four shots behind the arc before making five of the next six. Meanwhile, on the other end, the gimmick was a Notre Dame defense that cedes points to any offense with a pulse. The unnecessarily clean gameplay meant there were no fouls committed for the first eight minutes of the contest.
Eventually Syracuse started closing out on shooters, but it was still business as usual on the Irish defense’s side of the court. Once the game reached a 26-26 deadlock, however, the Irish three-point machine came back to life as they made four of their next six to build a 40-36 lead going into halftime. It was a contested period that saw neither team lead by more than five. There were 7 ties and 8 lead changes in the opening stanza as both teams had a balanced scoring effort.
Five different Irish players made a three-pointer in the opening period, three of whom made multiple. Notre Dame was 14-26 from the field (54%) and 9-18 beyond the arc at the break. Syracuse’s shooting percentages were worse by comparison, but the Orange made up the difference by converting on each of their five offensive rebounds for a total of 11 second-chance points.
Nate Laszewski began the second period by picking up where the team left off knocking down a corner three. That was followed on the next possession by a J.J. Starling poster dunk to give the Irish a 45-38 advantage.
JJ STARLING CAUGHT A BODY! @NDmbb | #ACCMBB— ACC Men's Basketball (@accmbb) January 15, 2023
: @accnetwork pic.twitter.com/cjc3RzVcKM
Then Laszewski, Dane Goodwin, Trey Wertz and Marcus Hammond each took a turn hitting a deep ball as the Irish built a double-digit lead at 59-47. However, the Orange responded with a full-court press that didn’t lead directly to points off turnovers but altered the pace of the game in their favor. The trigger-happy Irish started taking ill-advised threes and in the blink of an eye a 13-4 ’Cuse run trimmed the lead to 63-60 by the under-8-minute media timeout.
Laszewski’s and-1 off an offensive rebound helped settle the Irish down, and an acrobatic finish by Starling brought the lead back to six points at 68-62. However, the Orange responded with two consecutive dunks to make it a two-point game and their full-court press continued to harass the Irish. Syracuse inevitably took the lead on a long-range shot, but Hammond responded in kind with his fourth three of the game to retake the lead at 71-69.
But it was all Syracuse from then on. The Irish went almost the entirety of the final three minutes without scoring as they turned the ball over twice and went cold beyond the arc. A season high in three-pointers made (15) wasn’t enough as Notre Dame finished the game 1-9 from deep. It was a slow and painful death as the shots that were previously falling kept clanging off the rim and Syracuse’s lead began to grow.
A last-ditch effort came up short and the Irish fell 78-73. Hammond led the team with 18 points followed by Goodwin with 15. Laszewski recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Now it’s back to the drawing board for the Irish. They’ll have a chance to avenge their earlier loss to Florida State (5-13, 3-4 ACC) in a rematch on Jan. 17. Tip off is at 7 p.m.