The Irish opened the game with a flurry. After surrendering the first two points, the Irish responded with eight unanswered points taking the 8-2 lead behind the three-point shooting of guards Chris Quinn and Torrian Jones.
The Orangemen responded by mounting their own run, tying the game 10-10 on four straight points by junior forward, Hakim Warrick. Warrick tied the game with a monster dunk, only to be called for a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
The Irish answered with five unanswered points led by senior center Tom Timmermans' four points in the paint. That would be the last time the Irish led as the Orangemen responded with 13 unanswered points fueled by four Irish turnovers.
The Irish tried to claw back in the game responding to the run by the Orangemen. Syracuse had increased their lead to 10, leading 35-25 before Irish guard Chris Thomas narrowed the lead to five with a jumper just before halftime.
The Irish came out of the locker room at half and narrowed the lead to two with a Chris Quinn three-pointer early in the second half. Two straight Irish turnovers gave the Orangemen the six-point lead before Chris Thomas narrowed the lead to 46-44 Orangemen, with two straight three-point buckets.
Notre Dame narrowed the lead to one a few moments later when Torin Francis converted the three-point play after getting fouled by grabbing a rebound from a Chris Thomas missed-shot, and laying it in.
A deficit of one would be as a close as the Irish would get, however. The Orangemen were a little quicker, could jump quite a bit higher, and battled for the ball harder than the Irish for most of the game. The athletic ability and tenacity of Syracuse was clearly obvious as the Irish lost 81-70 in a game that wasn't as close as the score.
The Irish were led by forward Torin Francis' 17 points, and center Tom Timmermans added 16. Irish guard Chris Thomas, who scored a season-high 29 points in his last game against Pittsburgh, struggled all night shooting just 5-of-18 (2-of-9 in his three-point attempts), and scoring 16 points.
"We got beat by a heck of a basketball team who's playing very well--just a really poised group," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "We made some runs at (them). We never were really able to sustain a couple of defensive stops in a row, or get a couple of loose balls, and their just too good of a basketball team to not get loose balls when you really need them."
"I think they're that much better than us right now, absolutely," Brey continued. "I just thought stuff around the basket killed us, just killed us."
Brey was right as the Orangemen outscored the Irish 46-26 in the paint.
The Irish also lost the turnover battle with Notre Dame committing 14 turnovers to the eight by the Orangemen. The Irish could only come up with six steals on the night compared to the 10 steals by the Orangemen.
Notre Dame also struggled behind the three-point line against the Syracuse 2-3 zone. Notre Dame was just 8-of-23 behind the arch, and they were forced into a number of bad shots most of the night.
Irish guard Chris Thomas said the zone defense gave the Irish fits all night. "After I hit those first two three's in the second half, I thought I was going to be able to put some more in," said Thomas. "I forced a long one, and they had quick hands, and were forcing us into tough shots."
The Irish seemed to lack the intensity shown by Syracuse. Senior center, Tom Timmermans agreed and said the Irish have to play more physical if they want to win games like this in future. "We've been struggling a little bit on the backboards," said Timmermans. "They're getting more loose balls than us. We need to come up with those to win the game."
"I think other teams just being tougher than us as of right now," said Timmermans when asked about the recent struggles of the Irish. "I think today they outplayed us. They were tougher than us on the backboard--we got pushed around a little bit."
Forward Torin Francis said he and his teammates need to play a complete game. "We came out strong, we came out hitting shots, we came out defending, and then we just go into a drought. That's just something that we need to work on mentally. That's all about playing hard, playing with heart, and just wanting it."
The key point in the game came with the Irish up 15-10 in the first half. Notre Dame had Syracuse out of their game, but the Orangemen then went a 13-0 run after a timeout, and Thomas said the Irish lost their poise. "We lost focus, we had some bad turnovers. They got some easy shots in transition. Our transition (defense) for five minutes in the first half was terrible. Even the whole second half, I don't think we took a charge in the game, maybe we did. We had lapses from everybody on defense. Their runs, they pretty much got it any time they wanted to."
Thomas says the Irish are not ready to hang it up, however. "I think when our backs are against the wall we play better," Thomas said. "I can see it just as much as you guys can--how good this team can be at times, and how bad it can be. We've got to maintain our consistency, and find that, and try to aim for that every game."
Brey said the Irish need to focus on their next game with Virginia Tech before worrying about what happens in the future. "Like I told them, you lose today and it feels like you're 0-4 in the BIG EAST," said Brey. "You're lucky you're 2-2. You've got to get back to work, identify some things, and head to Blacksburg."
The Irish will now head to Blacksburgh to take on the Hokies at 7 PM on Tuesday night in another BIG EAST match-up. The Irish will have to try to snap their two-game losing streak against Virginia Tech (8-5, 1-1 in BIG EAST play) to remain in the hunt for a N.C.A.A. tournament bid.