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Men’s Basketball

ND falls to Syracuse without Demetrius Jackson

| Friday, January 29, 2016

No. 25 Notre Dame learned the importance of a top point guard last night, as the Irish were blown out by Syracuse, 81-66, without junior guard Demetrius Jackson calling the shots at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York.

“We’re a little different without Demetrius Jackson,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “We’re a little different group without him, but we may have to play another game without him so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

The Irish (14-6, 5-3 ACC) missed Jackson’s ball-handling skills from the get go against the Orange (14-8, 4-5). After they scored the first five points of the game, poor shooting and turnovers by the Irish led to a 23-1 run by Syracuse. During the Orange run, the Irish were 0-for-7 from the field with three missed free throws.

Overall, Notre Dame went 4-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc in the game’s first 20 minutes, including a half-court heave by junior guard Steve Vasturia as the buzzer sounded to end the half. Irish turnovers were another key factor in the Syracuse run. Coming into the game, the Irish averaged only nine turnovers per game, but the team coughed the ball up that many times in the first half alone.

“Nine turnovers in the first half really hurt us,” Brey said. “We scored the first two possessions against the zone, and maybe you think you’re confident, and then I think we had four straight turnovers. And to have nine turnovers in that first half, very unlike us. We just never could dig out of it.

“Give Syracuse credit, I thought they played great, certainly they were cornered a little bit.”

Vasturia took Jackson’s place at point guard and finished the night with 16 points, but the team never found its offensive rhythm against Syracuse’s 2-3 zone defense. Despite the team’s ball-handling woes, Brey said he was impressed with Vasturia’s ability to take over Jackson’s point guard duties.

“Steve Vasturia was fabulous. He’s exhausted,” Brey said. “We got to get him rest, having to handle the ball the whole night.”

Syracuse graduate student guard Trevor Cooney led the way for the Orange, scoring 14 points in the first half, while freshman forward Tyler Lydon added 13 and six rebounds. Cooney finished the game with 22 points.

The second half started promisingly for the Irish, as junior forward V.J. Beachem rattled off five straight points to bring Notre Dame within 12. The miniature run was quickly stifled, however, as Syracuse freshman guard Malachi Richardson answered back with five points of his own.

Irish junior forward V.J. Beachem looks for an open teammate  during Notre Dame’s 76-49 win over Boston College on Saturday.Emmet Farnan | The Observer

Irish junior forward V.J. Beachem looks for an open teammate
during Notre Dame’s 76-49 win over Boston College on Saturday.

For the rest of the second half, Syracuse never faltered. The Orange never led by fewer than 15 points, and Notre Dame’s frustration began to show when freshman forward Matt Ryan got tangled up with Richardson 12 minutes into the second half and the two had to be separated by the officials. Ryan was 0-for-7 at the time of the altercation but finished the game with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting.

Beachem was one of the lone bright spots for the Irish on Thursday night. The Fort Wayne, Indiana, native put up a career-high 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting, including 5-of-8 on 3-point shots. Senior forward Zach Auguste ended his night with eight points and 10 rebounds and sophomore forward Bonzie Colson chipped in nine points and 10 rebounds. Despite the blowout loss, Brey said he was proud of the effort his team showed.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Brey said. “Everybody was working and trying hard. … For V.J., that’s a pretty good night for him to play against that zone and do what he did. And I give [freshman guard] Rex Pflueger a lot of credit, he had a tough night with some foul trouble. But he had six assists, he battled. Matt Ryan battled, you know those young guys, we have to keep bringing them along. Zach Auguste battled. …

“You get your butt kicked but it only counts as one league loss, and you have to regroup and be ready to go Sunday.”

Looking ahead, Notre Dame hosts Wake Forest on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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