The Orange lost at their own game. The Syracuse Orange fell to the depleted Notre Dame Fighting Irish by a score of 51-49 as Syracuse’s inability to score, and rebound (how???) the ball lost them a game they should have won. Sounds familiar, right?
Despite missing their two best players in Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, the Fighting Irish clawed their way to a win over the Orange. Syracuse’s offense was once again stagnant as their lack of scoring doomed them when it mattered most.
The Orange struggled to shoot the ball to start the first half (no surprise there), but they did start to push the ball off of Notre Dame misses which allowed for some easy looks around the rim. The nation knows that Syracuse’s kryptonite is their inability to shoot the ball from the perimeter, so getting easy looks in transition is the perfect way for the Orange to get something going on offense.
Syracuse has relied on their stifling defense to keep them in games this season, and it was active and dominant in the first half. The Orange held the Fighting Irish to 19 points on six makes in the first half as they were able to take advantage of the injured Fighting Irish. Paschal Chukwu made his presence known with three blocks in the first half; Chukwu makes it hard for any opponent to find easy looks inside when he is the force Syracuse knows he can be down low.
Frank Howard helped the Orange finish the half strong with a few three pointers to give them the 28-19 lead at the break. The Orange finished with five threes at the end of the first half, and while five threes in a half isn’t something that excites most teams, the Orange will take all the production from the perimeter they can get moving forward.
It all got worse in the second half.
The Orange have been a second half team all year, but it didn’t look that way today to say the least. The Fighting Irish opened the second half on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to one. Syracuse’s defense started to collapse inside which allowed Notre Dame to take advantage with a couple open threes.
Needing a bucket to end the run, the Orange went to their leading score Tyus Battle who finished a floater inside — a move he has made his signature this season. Despite the floater inside, the Syracuse offense remained lost and out of sorts for the remained of the game.
The Orange have done a great job of team rebounding this year, but the team on the floor today looked like a completely different team. The Orange got manhandled on the glass, being out rebounded 42-27 and 21-8 on the offensive glass. The lack of rebounding let Notre Dame stay in striking distance as the game lock dwindled down — and it was enough to shock the Orange in the Carrier Dome. They finally started finishing on those boards, earning a lead with a little over two minutes to play, then scoring the game-winning points in the final few seconds on a steal.
Enough has been said about the lack of offense from Syracuse, but it’s time to find an answer. The defense is there to keep them in games late, but their lack of shooting makes it impossible to win late. The Orange will need to find the answer to their problem quickly as they travel to face the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers on January 9. A shooting or rebounding performance like we saw today won’t be anywhere near enough to get it done.