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Men’s Basketball

Irish can’t cool Cooney

| Monday, February 3, 2014

The Irish were looking to piece together a new winning streak to salvage their season, but the momentum from Saturday’s overtime victory over ACC bottom-feeder Boston College was not enough to propel Notre Dame past the country’s top team.

Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7 ACC) threatened to pull off the road upset, but eventually fell to No. 1 Syracuse, 61-55, at the Carrier Dome on Monday evening.

Irish senior guard Eric Atkins looks to distribute the ball from outside the arc in Notre Dame's win over Boston College on Saturday. Atkins finished with only nine points against Syracuse during Notre Dame's 61-55 loss Monday.Isabella Bianco

Irish senior guard Eric Atkins looks to distribute the ball from outside the arc in Notre Dame’s win over Boston College on Saturday. Atkins finished with only nine points against Syracuse during Notre Dame’s 61-55 loss Monday.

On a night when Syracuse senior forward C.J. Fair and freshman guard Tyler Ennis managed only six points apiece, redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney scored a career-high 33 points on 9-of-12 shooting from 3-point range to pace the Orange. Cooney tied the program record for made 3-pointers in a contest.

“He made some really tough ones,” Irish coach Mike Brey told Pat Rogers of WatchND after the game. “I think seven of them were really challenged. He was the one guy we couldn’t get under control. But I thought he made some really tough ones.”

The Irish pulled within three points with 8:46 left to play, but Syracuse (22-0, 9-0) extended its margin to 10 over the next four minutes. Notre Dame once again closed the gap to five points after Irish junior forward Pat Connaughton completed a three-point play with 2:52 remaining.

The teams traded baskets from there, but Notre Dame never cut the lead to fewer than five points. Syracuse missed the front end of a pair of one-and-one opportunities in the game’s final 40 seconds, but Notre Dame could not convert on the other end as the Orange closed out the victory. The Irish outscored the home team 37-30 in the second period, but it was not enough to overcome the deficit accumulated in the opening frame.

“We really responded in the second half,” Brey said. “It was a tough end of the first-half run, came back, I think we got it to one possession a couple of times. I thought our defense was excellent. I thought we made some strides defensively in our man-to-man in the second half, even though we didn’t win the game.”

Irish senior center Garrick Sherman scored a team-high 16 points and pulled down eight rebounds, helping Notre Dame secure a 22-16 advantage on points in the paint. Freshman guard Steve Vasturia netted a career-high 13 points and Connaughton chipped in 11 points and eight rebounds. Senior guard Eric Atkins had nine points and led the Irish with six assists.

The Irish got off to a quick start, scoring the first basket after an Atkins steal and layup. Notre Dame led at multiple points during opening minutes, but never by more than three points.

Syracuse relied on the sharp shooting of Cooney, who hit five of his seven 3-point attempts in the first half and entered the break with 17 points. On defense, the Orange held Notre Dame scoreless for a seven-and-a-half-minute stretch at one point, capitalizing with a 13-0 run to carry a 10-point lead into the half’s final five minutes. Notre Dame trailed 31-18 at halftime after reaching a season-low point total in the first half.

Sherman led Notre Dame’s first-half effort with nine points and four rebounds. Vasturia contributed five points in the period.

Still winless on the road in conference play, Notre Dame will return home for its next two ACC games. The Irish host North Carolina on Saturday before welcoming in Clemson on Feb. 11. Brey said the Irish leave Syracuse with the positive outlook from the victory over Boston College still intact.

“Well I think we should have a great mindset,” Brey said. “You know, we just got a split. We split, and that may be as good as it gets for our basketball team this year. We want to go back and see if we can win against a really good team and a great program. That would be a great win for our program, to beat the North Carolina program. We did it earlier this year against Duke. Can we do it again? We need a little bit of rest first before we get into our practice mode.”

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About Joseph Monardo

Joseph Monardo is a senior from Atlanta studying International Economics. A participant in the Bologna study abroad program, Joseph likes pickup sports, fantasy baseball and trivia nights with his friends.

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