Syracuse men’s basketball opens ACC Unity Week with comeback victory
SU MBB opens ACC Unity Week with comeback victory
With a week to prepare following a postponed road trip to Louisville, Syracuse men’s basketball kicked off ACC Unity Week for winter sports with a 20-point second half comeback in a 75-67 victory over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Dome.
Buddy Boeheim saved the game for the Orange and shifted the momentum with second half heroics from behind the arc. He finished with 29 points on 6-of-10 shooting from three, and his timely scoring inspired the ‘Cuse defense to clamp down in the second half.
Jim Boeheim praised the team following the game as the Orange push towards a birth in the ACC tournament.
“This game was one of the best comebacks I’ve had here,” Boeheim said. “Incredible. Great win. I’m really proud of this team…I’m still shocked by what this team did today.”
Prior to the tipoff, both teams stood in silence on opposite ends of the floor to promote racial equity and social justice. Syracuse players sported matching “One Orange” T-shirts in warmups and on the bench throughout the game.
The Orange showed early indications of rust against a Notre Dame team that bounced back from a 3-8 start to come within a game of .500. The Irish rattled off six wins in their eight games before traveling to Syracuse, poised to knock off the home favorites.
Notre Dame got off to a hot start behind a stellar performance from the ACC’s leader in field goal percentage, Juwan Durham. Durham punished the Orange defenders in the paint to the tune of three alley-oop finishes, 10 points and two assists in the first seven minutes of the game. Notre Dame jumped out 17-9 before Coach Boeheim called a timeout to stop their momentum.
The timeout did little to slow the Irish as they started 13-of-19 from the field with assists on 11 of 13 baskets. The Orange defense scrambled to keep up with the spacing, ball movement and hot shooting that the Irish opened with. Before SU could regroup, the Irish took command 32-15 and prompted another Boeheim timeout.
Marek Dolezaj and Buddy Boeheim were the only Orange players on the board until 13 minutes had passed in the game. As lost as SU looked defensively, the offense fared little better. They shot 11-of-27 overall and 2-of-6 from three, and the team only mustered five fast break points to Notre Dame’s 13.
SU got a small spark off the bench before the half as Robert Braswell and Kadary Richmond hit late baskets, but Syracuse trailed 46-32 heading into the locker room. The Irish came back to Earth at the end of the first and some late misses dropped their field goal percentage to 56.3%.
The real advantage came on the glass as Notre Dame out-rebounded Syracuse 20-13 in the opening frame. Nate Laszewski led the way for the Irish with 10 boards, and Quincy Guerrier led the Orange with four.
The halftime break did nothing to cool down the Irish initially as they opened the frame with three knockdowns from behind the arc. Trey Wertz led the charge and knocked down 5 of his 8 attempts from range.
Boeheim came alive in the second half and breathed some life into the Orange bench. Consecutive defensive stops and field goals brought the Orange within seven with over 10 minutes remaining, punctuated by a steal and transition three and an and-one layup by Boeheim.
The Fighting Irish had no answer for the Orange comeback as Boeheim rained in more baskets and the defense jumped out to an 8-2 lead in steals. SU capitalized on the clear momentum shift and took their first lead of the game, 62-60, with 7:36 remaining on Buddy Boeheim’s fifth made three.
With the bench engaged, the reenergized Orange tightened defensively and the Irish field goal percentage quickly dropped to a more manageable level. The Irish shot 44.8% for the game after a stellar first half and scored just 21 points in the second frame.
Strong free throw shooting by Dolezaj kept ‘Cuse in front as Notre Dame got into second half foul trouble. During the comeback, the Orange went on a 24-5 run and a 40-12 run overall to close the game. Dolezaj finished with 18 points, and Guerrier grabbed a game-high 14 boards. Both drew praise in the postgame press conference from Jim Boeheim, but Dolezaj was particularly lauded by his coach.
“(Dolezaj) is by far the MVP of this team, and it’s not even close,” Boeheim said.
Syracuse will be back in action on Monday, Feb. 22, as they travel to Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Duke. The Orange will be back in the Dome a week later for their last scheduled home game against North Carolina, and for the first time all season, fans are expected to be in attendance for the team’s sendoff.