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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame squanders chances late, falls to Syracuse

| Thursday, January 23, 2020

Despite having multiple chances to take the lead late in the second half, Notre Dame (11-7, 2-5 ACC) fell to Syracuse (12-7, 5-3 ACC) 84-82 Wednesday night at Purcell Pavillion. Notre Dame headcoach Mike Brey expressed his frustration that his team has had trouble down the stretch.

“We haven’t been able to close them here. It’s been frustrating for me and our guys,” he said “The crowd has been great, they’ve been entertaining games, our kids are competing, we just haven’t been able to make enough plays on either end of the floor.”

The Irish were led by senior forward John Mooney, who scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for his 12th consecutive double-double, and sophomore guard Dane Goodwin, who had 15 points off the bench. Syracuse head coach Jim Boehim had high praise for Mooney.

“If John Mooney is not one of the top 25 players in the country, then I don’t know anything about college basketball,” he said after the game.

Graduate student guard Rex Pfleuger commented on Syracuse’s prolific shooting during the contest.

“They’ve been on a pretty good streak right now, they were aggressive. I think we were two great offensive teams tonight just going at it,” he said. “They made more shots then we did, but I don’t think that’s anything negative on us. We definitely need to defend better individually. They’re a confident shooting team. Whether or not they’re on or off they’re going to keep shooting. They made their shots tonight, and we kept battling and going back and forth, we stuck to our game plan and did a great job, ultimately they just made more shots than we did.”

The Orange finished 47% from the field.

Notre Dame came into the game following a tough win on the road against Georgia Tech, while Syracuse had won their previous three games. The two teams faced each other Jan. 4 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The Irish prevailed 88-87, in a game in which three Notre Dame players finished with more than 20 points. 

Both teams picked up where they left off offensively. After a Syracuse layup to start the game, senior guard TJ Gibbs hit back-to-back threes to get the scoring started for the Irish. After Syracuse scored five consecutive points to retake the lead, senior forward Juwan Durham threw down an alley-oop slam from sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb.

Nathaniel George | The Observer
Irish senior forward Juwan Durham faces up during Notre Dame’s 84-82 loss to Syracuse on Jan. 22.

The two teams continued to go back and forth early. A Mooney and-one gave the Irish a 15-12 lead going into the under-16 timeout. After another Syracuse three, Goodwin banked in a corner three, and sophomore forward Nate Lazewski blocked a shot on the next possession, then drilled a three on the other end to put the Irish up by eight points.

Coming out of a media timeout, Lazewski immediately drilled another three. On the next possession, Durham sank two free throws to give the Irish a double-digit lead, but Syracuse came storming back with a 13-0 run to retake the lead, before it was finally ended by a Goodwin three.

The two sides continued to trade baskets for the rest of the half. Syracuse made two 3-pointers in the last minute of the stanza to take a 46-42 lead into the break. 

The Orange opened the second half on a 9-2 run, forcing Brey to take an early timeout. After another Syracuse basket, a Lazewski three ended the run and cut the lead to 10. After Syracuse missed a pair of free throws, Goodwin drilled a contested jumper from the elbow, bringing the crowd back into the game. Following a Syracuse timeout, a Durham jumper cut the lead further, but Syracuse again responded with a 7-0 run, before it was ended by a Pflueger three. After a shot-clock violation, Hubb made a pull-up jumper to cut the lead to eight, but it was answered again by Syracuse. 

Mooney blocked a three to force a shot clock violation, and Goodwin made another jumper from the free throw line to cut the lead to six. On the next possession, as the shot clock expired, Hubb grabbed a loose ball and heaved a deep three that miraculously fell in, cutting the lead to just three points.

After a timeout, a Mooney hook shot brought the Irish to within one, and on the next possession, he found a cutting Goodwin to give the Irish their first lead of the half with just under six minutes to play. Syracuse answered with a putback layup, but Mooney split a pair of free throws to tie the game. 

Nathaniel George | The Observer
Irish senior John Mooney shoots a jumper over a Syracuse defender during Notre Dame’s 84-82 loss to Syracuse on Jan. 22.

Brey had to call a timeout after back-to-back buckets, including a wide open dunk, gave the Orange a four-point cushion. Both teams turned the ball over multiple times down the stretch, but the Irish could not find the bottom of the net in the last few minutes of the game and were forced to foul down by six with less than a minute to play. 

Notre Dame made multiple threes in the last minute to keep the game interesting, and a Hubb steal lead to a Mooney layup to cut the lead to two, but Syracuse made both free throws to seal the game. 

“Our mentality has been the whole season that we’re never out of the game,” Pflueger said. “When it seems like we’re out of it, our team has the tenacity to keep on fighting, and that’s why I love this group.” 

Boeheim also praised the Irish after the game.

“I think Notre Dame has a tremendous team,” he said. “They could’ve won every game that they lost. They’re right there.”

Notre Dame will head south to Tallahassee, Florida, for what promises to be another tough matchup Saturday against No. 5-ranked Florida State (16-2, 6-1 ACC). The Seminoles have won nine consecutive matchups and have not lost a game at home this season. Brey indicated he may change the starting lineup for that game.

“When you’re searching, you just change it up [and] change it up.”

He also knows how close the Irish have been to winning big games all season.

“I don’t have any answers other than let’s keep trying.”

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