The Syracuse Orange men’s basketball team survived a hard fought road game at Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, winning 62-61 in South Bend to start conference play 1-0.
In a game against a veteran Notre Dame squad (Notre Dame has six players studying towards master’s degrees), it was the Syracuse veterans who produced as Joe Girard and Jesse Edwards led the Orange to a victory. The two four-year Orange veterans combined to score 42 of Syracuse’s 62 total points and grab 19 of 30 team rebounds.
It was a game of contrasting offensive styles that was obvious from the start as Notre Dame played outside and Syracuse played inside. The game started with the Irish finding results attacking the 2-3 zone early, jumping out to a 13-10 lead by the first media timeout behind three early triples from Dane Goodwin and Cormack Ryan. On the opposite end, Jesse Edwards found success inside by scoring eight of Syracuse’s first 10 points.
Syracuse native JJ Starling is starting for Mike Brey at Notre Dame. He went to the locker room early in this game, grasping at his shoulder. Starling returned to action later in the half and scored four points in 13 minutes.
Later in the half, Girard got loose for a triple and buried it to match his three point total over the previous three games. He found a bit of a groove by finding Edwards for a throwdown on the next possession as Notre Dame held onto an 18-15 lead at the second media timeout. Girard and Edwards—Syracuse’s only two four-year players—have always had good chemistry together and that was reignited in this matchup. Girard also had a theft and score on his way to a double-digit scoring first half.
Jim Boeheim gave the starters extended minutes but he turned to Justin Taylor for the first look off the bench. Notre Dame went to a 2-3 zone and the freshman responded by knocking down a mid-range jumper to start and followed it up with a corner three later in the half.
Fresh off an MCL injury, Marcus Hammond made his debut for the Irish after transferring from Niagara. He knocked down his first triple attempt to give Notre Dame a 27-23 lead at the under eight minute mark.
Symir Torrence and John Bol Ajak appeared for Syracuse off the bench and that was as deep as Boeheim was willing to go in the first half. Edwards continued his dominance by scoring 16 first half points and grabbing six rebounds. His ability to stay out of foul trouble allowed for greater production.
Notre Dame continued its hot shooting throughout as Goodwin knocked down the eighth and final three of the half to give Notre Dame a 35-32 lead. The Irish made 8-of-18 from outside in the first 20 minutes. Just prior to the end of the half, Girard knocked down a tough triple to knot the game at 35 heading into the break.
Out of the break, Syracuse made it an emphasis to feed Edwards inside and the double teams came immediately. Starling and Trey Wertz connected on threes—both from the left wing—on the other end and Justin Taylor made an early substitution for Chris Bell.
Girard continued to shoot it well with a jumper to start the second half. He had a steal and score right after to put Syracuse up 42-41. In the halfcourt, the Orange continued to look for Edwards down low and although Notre Dame tried to collapse the defense, it had no answers. Edwards scored three consecutive times to give Syracuse a 48-45 lead by the first media timeout of the second half. Girard was called for a flop call after hitting a tough jumper off a spin in traffic.
The second half saw less scoring as defenses tightened up and offensive miscues mounted. Notre Dame missed open teammates and failed to exploit the backline of Syracuse’s extended 2-3 zone and the Orange pushed the Irish further out on the perimeter. Syracuse missed open shots it made in the first half. Wertz settled and missed multiple threes for Notre Dame. But the game was close throughout.
Mintz got going late in the second with mid-range shots and a nice curl cut and finish at the rim. Taylor saw the lion’s share of the minutes at forward down the stretch and Bol Ajak played extended time, too. Syracuse got away from feeding Edwards due to double teams.
Down the stretch, a Girard backdoor cut gave Syracuse a 60-55 with 2:20 to play. After two scoreless possessions, Notre Dame got into transition and Ryan hit another three to get the game back within two with 1:16 to play. Mintz then missed a floater and after a long Irish offensive possession, Hammond was fouled by Girard on a mid-range jumper and completed a three point play to give Notre Dame a 61-60 lead with 30 seconds to go.
Jim Boeheim called timeout with one final offensive possession. Mintz then scored on a baseline drive to put Syracuse up one with 14 seconds left. On the final play, Syracuse had three fouls to give and utilized all of them. The Orange had one last defensive stand that ended with a missed corner three from Goodwin as Syracuse survived 62-61 to earn an important conference road win.
Edwards led Syracuse with his fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Girard busted out of a shooting slump to score 20 points, grab five rebounds and two steals. Mintz added nine points while Taylor scored five and grabbed four rebounds.
Syracuse won the points in the paint battle 34-18 while Notre Dame made 11 threes to Syracuse’s three. The Orange had just four turnovers to Notre Dame’s 10. Syracuse shot 48.3% from the floor whereas Notre Dame shot 38.3%.
Syracuse returns home to host Oakland on Tuesday as college basketball’s two longest tenured coaches square off from the JMA Wireless Dome. That game tips at 6 p.m. and airs on the ACC Network.