Saturday, January 21, 2012
Rapid Reax: Notre Dame 67, Syracuse 58
By Matt Fortuna
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Here are some quick thoughts from Notre Dame's shocking upset Saturday, a 67-58 victory over top-ranked and previously undefeated Syracuse (20-1, 7-1 Big East), which leaves Murray State as the nation's only unbeaten team:
Overview: The Irish (12-8, 4-3) entered the contest 14th in the Big East in 3-point percentage, shooting just 26 percent from beyond the arc. But they came out firing early, connecting on their first three 3-point attempts and their first four shots overall, jumping to an 11-2 lead that set the tempo for the rest of the way. Notre Dame finished 8-of-16 from 3 for the night. The burn offense was key for Notre Dame, with several of the Irish's jumpers coming with less than 10 seconds on the shot clock. Syracuse could never get into a rhythm offensively. Amazingly, the Irish have now won seven of their past nine home games against a No. 1 team, the previous a 60-58 win over North Carolina on Feb. 1, 1987.
Turning point: It's hard to overlook the first half in its entirety, particularly the first three minutes, during which the Irish jumped to an 11-2 lead behind back-to-back 3s on their first two possessions. They led by as many as 18 in the frame, during which they connected on 6 of 10 3-point attempts. Syracuse, meanwhile, couldn't buy a bucket, going 8-for-28 from the field in the first 20 minutes. Notre Dame actually endured an 8-minute, 18-second scoring drought in the second half, but Syracuse managed only a 9-0 run during that span, which was effectively ended with a monstrous fast-break dunk from Jack Cooley that made it 52-42 Irish.
Star of the game: The Notre Dame 3-point shooters deserve plenty of credit, but Cooley was an absolute force inside, banging with C.J. Fair and the Syracuse front line en route to a 17-point, 10-rebound night. He hit 7 of 10 foul shots and had the crowd -- and Irish bench -- fired up all night long. The absence of the 7-foot Fab Melo was noticeable for the Orange.
Up next: Syracuse needs to put aside the bitterness from its potential perfect season being ruined, as the Orange have a quick turnaround Monday at Cincinnati, which itself is coming off a tough loss at West Virginia in overtime Saturday. Notre Dame, meanwhile, will try to take momentum from this upset into next week's road trip, when the Irish will go to Seton Hall on Wednesday before traveling to Connecticut next Sunday.