South Bend, Ind. — Prior to tipoff at Notre Dame’s ACC home opener against the Syracuse Orange, the national anthem was played live on electric guitar inside the Joyce Center. By the game’s end, Elijah Hughes stole the show as rock star as he scored a career-high in both points and rebounds, finishing his day with 22 points and 10 rebounds on six made threes, leading the Orange to a 72-62 win.
Hughes has now made at least two three-point field goals in Syracuse’s last seven games and he’s scored at least 15 points in each of those seven. As a team that ranks No. 283 in the country in three-point percentage (Ken Pom), Hughes has helped Orange fans breathe easier.
The redshirt sophomore is Syracuse’s best shooter from range as he’s made more than two times as many triples (36) as any other teammate. Percentage wise Hughes is best on the team, converting at a 36.4 percent clip from downtown. His head coach thinks that’s about on par.
“He’s been shooting the ball well. So I mean I think he didn’t shoot it that much better than what he’s capable of. He’s been shooting around the 40-something percent lately,” Jim Boeheim said in the post-game presser.
On Saturday, Hughes got things started in the scoring column by nailing a triple from the top of the key. He later followed that up with another three from the left wing off a feed from Jalen Carey. Later in the first half with the shot clock winding down he launched a bomb that found the bottom of the net, which he says in late-clock scenarios he just tells himself, ‘Go get one. Go get a bucket.’ He finished the first half with three made threes.
Early in the second half Hughes ripped the chords from the top of the key once more — synonymous with his first triple of the game — only this time he was rocking out on his way back down to the defensive end. Hughes held up his left hand as if holding a guitar and strummed his index finger and thumb on his right hand down the floor.
He wasn’t done yet. With Notre Dame edging back to within two points of Syracuse, Frank Howard found Hughes for another three at the 9:06 mark which he buried to lift the Orange lead back to five. The same situation unfolded at 5:39 with the Irish within two, Howard once again found Hughes who buried his sixth and final three of the contest. In rock star form, Hughes retreated the other way strumming his air guitar.
Boeheim said post-game that Syracuse needs Hughes to score along with Tyus Battle and Oshae Brissett to win and that he’s hopeful Howard can return to last year’s scoring form following his injury.
As for Hughes, he’s scored at least 14 points in all of Syracuse’s game sans two and against Notre Dame he once again proved to be a timely shot-maker.
“I thought we did a real good job when they closed it to get Elijah a good look,” Boeheim said. “He’s been making those shots. He’s been shooting the ball well,” Boeheim said.
Hughes is shooting 44.4 percent from distance in his last three games. When it comes to shooting, some players are better off the catch and others are better dribbling into their shot. Hughes doesn’t have a preference — he says he’s comfortable shooting off the catch and the dribble. Asked if he feels he’s a better shooter from a particular spot on the floor beyond the arc, Hughes responded like any confident shooter would.
“Not really, no. If I have space whether it’s on the floor I’m gonna shoot it,” Hughes finished with a smile.
Rock out then, Eli.