The Irish scored 61 first half points en route to a 103-91 victory over the Orange at the Carrier Dome. The 103 points scored is the most on the season for the conference's top-ranked offense. With the road woes this team had been having, it's safe to say this was a statement game. The victory moves Notre Dame to 18-4 on the season and 6-3 in the Big East. They'll travel to Tampa on Saturday to face South Florida (11-11, 2-6), which lost by just two points to No. 15 Marquette this past Sunday. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 PM.
How big is this win for the Irish? First, they quiet the critics for now about their troubles on the road. Notre Dame has looked like two different teams so far this year, one at the Joyce Center and another at an opponent's home gym. The Irish haven't lost in South Bend this season, totaling a 16-0 record. But it's been another story away from the Joyce. Now, with a double digit win over Syracuse (15-7, 4-4), the doubts about this team's ability to win on the road become silent for now. Also, with three of the next four away from home, Notre Dame can take this win as a huge confidence booster.
Little defense was played in this game and the Irish were a major force behind this reason. They pushed the ball up the court early and often to attack the Orange's 2-3 zone defense. The beneficiary was freshman Luke Harangody. Without Kurz in the lineup, he became the man down low and came up with a big-time performance. Harangody finished with a career-high 21 points and 13 rebounds against a Syracuse team that was ranked second in rebounding offense. The Orange had no answer for him down low.
Syracuse also had no answer for Notre Dame's ability to shoot the three-pointer. The Irish came into the contest second in the Big East from behind the arc and it showed Tuesday at the Carrier Dome. Notre Dame hit an incredible 10-of-14 shots from three-point range before intermission, a big reason why they were up 61-42 at halftime. Senior Russell Carter and Colin Falls both nailed four baskets from this distance. Carter, who entered the contest second in the league in scoring, finished with 18 points. The conference's leading point man, Demetris Nichols of Syracuse, was one of the Orange's only bright spots with a game-high 29 points. Falls ended the evening with 16 points.
No Kurz in the Notre Dame lineup met not only Harangody stepping up but sophomore Zach Hillesland as well, who earned the start in his place. He didn't disappoint as he notched his third double-double of his career and second of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Hillesland also dished out six assists. Freshman point guard Tory Jackson had a team-high seven assists to go along with a career-high 19 points, including 11-of-14 from the free throw line. With a desperate Orange team fouling on almost every possession the final few minutes, the Irish cleaned up at the charity stripe. Notre Dame was 30-of-36 from the free throw line.
The final score could have been a lot worse. At one point in the second half, the Irish were up 75-47 with 14 minutes remaining. Syracuse showed some heart and tried to put together a fierce rally. The Orange closed to 91-81 on a Nichols jumper with 2:43 to go but Notre Dame hit 12-of-12 free throws down the stretch to ice the game and end the road losing streak.