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Poor shooting down the finish leads to a 70-61 defeat to No. 6 Syracuse at the Joyce Center

Matt Lozar | Wednesday, January 12, 2005

After going up 57-51 with 8:17 seconds remaining, the Irish had No. 7 Syracuse on the ropes. A chance to go 3-0 for the first time ever in the Big East was at their fingertips.Then the Orange scored 14 straight points, and the Irish (10-3, 2-1 in the Big East) only scored four points the rest of the game and a golden opportunity was lost as Syracuse (16-1, 3-0) won 70-61 Monday night at the Joyce Center.”We didn’t play good defense, that’s what it came down to. We didn’t do what we’re capable of doing on the defensive end,” Irish senior Chris Thomas said. “We felt good on our shots. They were getting free throw rebounds – that kind of stuff just kills you. It deflates you.”After playing exceptionally well against Villanova on Saturday, Thomas shot 1-for-14 on the night and only scored five points to go along with his seven rebounds and eight assists. The tough part is that Thomas felt good on his shots, got them in the flow of the game and really wasn’t forcing them. Irish coach Mike Brey knows the Irish have to ride their senior co-captain in games against top competition.”He’s been shooting it so well too. He was having to handle a lot with the zone pushed out,” Brey said. “He’s got to shoot them. We are going to live or die with him taking those shots. We died tonight.”With the Irish holding that six-point lead, a tip-in by Billy Edelin with 7:39 left was the first of seven straight shots made by Syracuse. The highlight of that run came on an alley-oop from Edelin to Hakim Warrick to put the Orange up 63-57, one of three dunks by Warrick on the night.Syracuse’s poor free-throw shooting (5-for-16 in the second half) gave the Irish a chance to make a late run. A layup from Torin Francis got it to 66-61 with 1:39 left and the Irish forced the Orange into a long 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down in their next possession.But the ball was in the hands of the one player the Irish didn’t want to see taking that shot – Gerry McNamara.”Gerry wasn’t shooting the ball like he has been,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “When he went to take that last shot, I knew he was going to make it. That was the toughest one of the night, but he makes big shots in big games, and he has since he’s been with us. I don’t think there’s anybody better at doing that.” Francis led the Irish with 15 points and nine rebounds. McNamara scored a team-high 22 points for the Orange, but it took 21 shots. Josh Pace got 16 on 8-for-11 shooting. Warrick, battling second-half foul trouble, was held to a season-low 12 points. The Irish came out firing taking 11 3-pointers in the first 9:16, making four. Towards the end of the half, and especially in the second half, Syracuse extended its patented 2-3 zone further from the basket and wider on the perimeter to keep the Irish guards out of shooting range.The long-range shooting enabled the Irish to build a 19-17 advantage in front of the energetic home crowd. Extending that lead to 26-21 forced Syracuse to call a timeout and attempt to stop the momentum.The Orange closed the half with a 17-8 stretch to go into the locker room up 38-34.