Comeback Kids: Syracuse basketball defeats Notre Dame 75-67 (Brent Axe recap)

Syracuse, N.Y. — Apparently the luck of the Irish runs out at halftime.

The Syracuse University men’s basketball stormed back on Saturday to defeat Notre Dame 75-67 at the Carrier Dome.

The Orange improved to 13-6 overall, 7-5 in the ACC and 11-1 at home this season.

“It’s a big win for us,’’ Syracuse guard Buddy Boeheim, who scored 29 points against the Irish, said on Saturday after the game. “We needed to win that. We never gave up. Down 18, down 20 whatever it was, we just fought and stayed together.’’

It was 20 points, Buddy. Notre Dame led 55-35 with 16:49 to go. The Irish stormed out to a 46-32 lead at the break with a combination of inside and outside scoring that kept the Orange defense guessing.

But then Syracuse turned on the press and Notre Dame failed to score during a six-minute stretch in the second half.

A stunning 29-5 run pulled the Orange out of the abysmal first-half rut. Syracuse outscored the Irish 43-21 in the second half and ended the game on a 40-12 scoring run over the Irish.

“This is one of the better comebacks I’ve had here. In a long time,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.

“It’s disappointing,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “I knew they’d be coming after us. They always make a run in this building and they’re gifted offensively. The turnovers against full-court pressure like in Atlanta changed the whole complexion, so I’m disappointed for our guys cause I thought we were ready to play.”

This wasn’t the first big lead squandered by the Irish this season. Notre Dame gave up a 17-point lead in an 82-80 loss to Georgia Tech on Feb. 6.

The win keeps Syracuse’s March Madness hopes alive and ups the ante for Monday’s matchup at Duke with a coveted Quadrant 1 win on the table.

The Sunny Side

Buddy Ball

Syracuse Orange guard Buddy Boeheim (35) with a three pointer in front of Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Trey Wertz (2) in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y., Feb 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

Buddy Boeheim was dialed in from long distance against the Irish and gave the Orange the offensive push it needed to complete a big comeback.

Boeheim dropped 29 points on Notre Dame, shooting a season-best 6-for-10 from 3-point range. Boeheim also found room in the paint to score with dribble drives, shooting 10-for-19 overall.

Boeheim’s career-high 29 points are the most in a game by a Syracuse player this season and the most since Joe Girard scored 30 points at home against NC State last year.

Boeheim scored 20 second-half points, including 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the 3-point range, to lead the Orange charge. He got a lot of help from his teammates as Syracuse’s aggressive offensive rebounding and ball movement in the second half led to open looks for Boeheim.

A good example of his versatility came when he converted a 3-point play with 10:37 left in the game to trim the ND lead to 60-53. Boeheim kissed a strong drive off the glass, then sank the free throw. Boeheim then drilled a 3-pointer off a Quincy Guerrier pass to bump Syracuse within a score of 60-56.

“My teammates did a great job finding me, just setting screens for me,” Buddy Boeheim said. “I got some really good looks and it felt good to finally see some go down. It’s a big win for us. We needed to win that. We never gave up. We just fought and stayed together. We know that we can play like that all the time.”

Boeheim has had his fair share of critics this season. Fans have wondered where the player that led ACC in 3-pointers made (97) and 3-point percentage (.370) last season had gone. Some have called radio shows armed with analytics to argue he should be on the floor less (Hi, Pat in Syracuse).

Boeheim’s success last season made him a focus on the scouting report. Opposing teams have face-guarded him and prevented open looks. Two Covid-related pauses also put speed bumps in front of Boeheim’s progress.

On Saturday, Boeheim put all of it aside and did what he does best.

Shoot the rock and shoot it well.


Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Syracuse Orange forward Marek Dolezaj (21) grabs a rebound in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y., Feb 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

Jim Boeheim has said a number of times that Marek Dolezaj has been Syracuse’s MVP this season. Saturday’s performance was just another reason why.

Dolezaj put up some of his best offensive numbers of the season against Notre Dame with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. Dolezaj took advantage of his space in the lane and rolled to the hoop.

Dolezaj cashed in 6-of-6 shots from the free-throw line. He is one of the top free-throw shooters in the ACC this season (70-for-81, .864). Dolezaj has been a clutch 32-for-34 at the free-throw line in Syracuse’s last eight games.

“He’s by far the most valuable player on our team, and it’s not even close,” Boeheim said. “He’s the best center we have. He helps our offense. One of the reasons we’re the second-best offensive team in the league is because of him.”

Pressed for Time

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Notre Dame Fighting Irish forward Juwan Durham (11) and Syracuse Orange forward Kadary Richmond (3) reach for a loose ball in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y., Feb 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

Jim Boeheim is not a fan of turning to the full-court press unless absolutely necessary. He has quipped that his team couldn’t press a pair of pants.

The press saved the day against Notre Dame.

When Boeheim inserted Kadary Richmond and Robert Braswell into the lineup, it brought length and energy to a defensive presence that was missing from the Orange lineup.

The Irish wilted under the pressure.

Notre Dame committed eight of 10 turnovers in the second half. The Irish started to rush shots and look disoriented. After controlling the boards in the first half, SU kept Notre Dame away from the basket in the second half.

After Notre Dame converted 54.5 percent from the field in the first half, the Orange defense limited the Irish to 32 percent shooting in the second half.

The bench boost from Braswell and Richmond can’t be understated.

Braswell’s big contributions won’t shine in the boxscore, though he scored three points and five rebounds in 17 minutes. His length and presence on defense altered possessions. Boeheim also noted a charge that Braswell took that was a game-changing play.

Richmond had three steals to go with six points and three rebounds. As he often has this season, Richmond gave the Orange a presence on the defensive end down the stretch.

“I just can’t believe we got the stops we got, that the press worked so well,” Jim Boeheim added. “They weren’t just missing shots. We were not giving them shots. That’s hard to do against a team like Notre Dame. I’m still shocked by what this team did today.”

The Great Guerrier

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Syracuse Orange forward Quincy Guerrier (1) looks for help to outlet a pass in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y., Feb 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

Quincy Guerrier kept the record alive.

Syracuse is now 12-0 when out-rebounding its opponent.

That mark was in danger at one point as Notre Dame, which entered Saturday’s game 13th in rebounding margin, 10th in defensive rebounding and last in offensive rebounding percentage in the ACC, controlled the boards by a mark of 20-14 at halftime.

Syracuse punched back in the second half, out-rebounding the Irish 22-11 mostly thanks to Guerrier, who finished with nine points and 14 rebounds.

Guerrier’s work on the offensive glass (five rebounds) was especially helpful in the Orange comeback in setting up shooters. He also swiped away possessions from Notre Dame on several missed 3-pointers in the second half.

Guerrier added a clutch 3-pointer to close Syracuse to within one-point (60-59) with 8:30 remaining in the game.

“The whole difference in the game is when Quincy (Guerrier) gets physical and gets on the boards,” said Jim Boeheim. “He got on the boards, passed out for threes, and played unselfish basketball. We knocked down those threes and it made a huge difference.”

The Dark Side

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Syracuse Orange forward Alan Griffin (0) loses the ball to Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Trey Wertz (2) in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y. Feb. 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

Alan Off The Mark

Alan Griffin had a setback against the Irish, scoring just five points on 2-of-6 shooting in 24 minutes. Griffin ended a solid streak of scoring, averaging 16 points in SU’s last six games prior to Saturday’s win over Notre Dame.

Griffin missed a few shots early and struggled to cover shooters when Notre Dame went on a hot streak in the first half.

With Boeheim shooting well and Braswell playing solid defense in the press, Griffin wasn’t needed for the Orange in the second half.

That’s not something Syracuse has seen happen this season. Griffin’s scoring punch will be needed if the Orange are going to keep winning down the stretch.

Saturday just wasn’t his day.

Hey Joe

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Syracuse Orange guard Joseph Girard III (11) in the lane for a layup in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse N.Y., Feb 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

It seems what goes up must come down for Joe Girard III in the Orange lineup.

Look at his last five games:

  • NC State: 5 points
  • at Clemson: 19 points
  • at NC State: 6 points
  • Boston College: 16 points
  • Notre Dame: 5 points

One play that stood out in the wrong way was Girard failed to finish on a layup after a steal that led to an Irish 3-pointer in the other end, giving Notre Dame a 58-41 lead.

Girard also drew scorn from Boeheim and assistant coach Gerry McNamara for arguing with an official. That’s not the first time he has been caught doing that this season.

Given his recent up-and-down pattern, look for a solid shooting night against Duke on Monday.

Slow Start

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

The Syracuse basketball team takes on Notre Dame Feb. 20, 2021. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

Syracuse’s comeback ability is noteworthy, but so is the propensity to start slow.

The Irish scored 46 first-half points on the Orange in a variety of ways.

Notre Dame forward Juwan Durham dominated Syracuse’s frontcourt players to start the game. Four of his first five baskets were dunks, and he scored 10 of the Irish’s first 17 points.

After Durham forced Syracuse to focus the defense inside, Notre Dame started connecting from outside. Trey Wertz, Cormac Ryan and Prentiss Hubb all made at least two 3-pointers in the first half.

Syracuse always seems to figure out a way to crawl out of a hole, but why keep digging it in the first place?

This, That and the Other Thing

Syracuse vs. Notre Dame

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim with a sly smile for the referee in a game between Syracuse and Notre Dame in Syracuse N.Y. Dennis Nett | [email protected]

  • Saturday’s win over Notre Dame was the first 20-point comeback win for Syracuse since Jan. 24, 2005, vs. Rutgers. It ties the largest comeback by an ACC team this season (Miami vs. Purdue).
  • Buddy Boeheim moved past Todd Burgan (178) and Tyus Battle (179) for sole possession of ninth place for career 3-point field goals made at Syracuse. Boeheim topped 180 career 3-pointers over the course of 80 games, making him the second-fastest in program history to reach the mark behind only current Syracuse assistant coach, Gerry McNamara (64 games).
  • #FreeThrowsMatter. Syracuse converted all 11 of its free-throw attempts, the fourth time the Orange were perfect from the line in a game in which the team had at least 10 attempts this season.
  • Both Mike Brey and Jim Boeheim draped commemorative towels over their shoulders to honor John Thompson. The dedication was coordinated by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Tweet of the Game

Contact Brent Axe: Email | Twitter


Watch Jim Boeheim’s news conference after Syracuse win over Notre Dame

‘Nothing against Jalen Johnson:’ Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim addresses comments, backlash

Syracuse’s press flustered Notre Dame and helped Orange to 43-21 second-half domination

Syracuse unleashes press, unsettles Notre Dame in Carrier Dome win (Donna Ditota’s quick hits)

Syracuse basketball box score vs. Notre Dame

Down 20 points, Syracuse rallies for stunning 75-67 win over Notre Dame


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