The loss of Brittney Sykes to injury was a downer.
The loss of Briana Day to foul trouble was the dagger.
Sykes re-injured her knee midway in the first half and Day picked up her fourth foul with 17:29 remaining in the game. That combination plagued the Syracuse Orange late in the game, after staying even for the first 20 minutes. The Orange (10-4) couldn't keep up with the high-flying Irish offense in the second half without its full complement of players. Syracuse's two game winning streak came to a close, in an 85-74 loss in the Carrier Dome.
Briana Butler and Diamond Henderson both scored 19 points for Syracuse, who also got 12 points from Taylor Ford off the bench.
Unlike last season's blowout loss, Syracuse managed to hang around with No. 4 Notre Dame (14-1) for a long stretch of the game. The Orange, who has now lost 16 straight in its series with the Irish, even went into intermission trailing by only a point. But, eventually, the Orange faltered in the second half. It was another close call for Syracuse, which has now had four potential wins to ranked teams derailed by poor play at the end of games.
"I thought that we did a very good job of just staying with our game plan," Quentin Hillsman told Cuse.com. "We really wanted to be aggressive, get up and down the floor, and play well in transition. But, they just had a couple players, Jewell Loyd and Brianna Turner, that are very special players. They did what they needed to do to win the game."
Sykes came off the court after a similar play to the one that first caused her ACL tear. She streaked down the floor in transition and took an awkward step on her right knee before going up for the layup. Although she came back from the locker room in the second half, she never returned to the game.
She didn't score at all, but factored into Syracuse's 11-5 first half turnover advantage with two steals and a block. The duo of Sykes and Alexis Peterson in transition was very effective. An emphatic block and a forceful drive to the hoop showed some signs that Sykes was starting to get back to her old self.
The Orange initially withstood the loss of Sykes' offense, but it was the loss of Day's defense that ultimately turned the game over to the Irish. Day picked up two fouls in the first three minutes of the second half and Notre Dame took advantage inside. Notre Dame expanded the lead from five to 13 with Day on the bench. They went after backup center Amber Witherspoon, a talented albeit untested freshman.
The Orange got the score to 66-61 after a quick 8-0 run with Day back in the game. But Syracuse never got within five again and the Irish continued their winning streak over the Orange, one that started back in 2002.