The Irish had three players score 20-plus points and they overcame a sluggish start to beat Syracuse 89-83 at Madison Square Garden. Notre Dame (24-6) sweeps both games this season against the Orange and have now won six in a row. They move on to the Big East Semifinals tomorrow against No. 9 Georgetown and will look to earn a place in the conference championship game for the first time in school history. The Irish lost earlier in the season to the Hoyas 66-48 in Washington, D.C. as the tough Georgetown defense forced them to shoot just 30 percent from the field.
Notre Dame did not get out to a fast start. The Irish allowed Syracuse to take an early 26-16 lead. But the Irish answered with the first of a few big runs in the contest. Notre Dame went on a 13-2 burst to erase the deficit and take a 29-28 lead. Russell Carter was instrumental in the run, scoring eight of the 13 points, including two from three-point range. The senior guard finished the day with a team-high 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting. The Orange battled back to take a 34-32 halftime lead but it set up for a second half that Notre Dame would control.
Down 39-36, the Irish would once again go on a run that gave them an advantage they wouldn't relinquish for the rest of the contest. A 15-3 run gave Notre Dame a nine-point lead at 51-42 with 14 minutes remaining. Colin Falls hit two shots from behind the arc to contribute to the spurt. As has been the case lately, Falls delivered a big-time performance on the offensive end. The senior guard scored 23 points, including seven made three-pointers. It's the 13th straight game that Falls has scored 14 points or more. He constantly found open looks against the spotty 2-3 zone of the Orange.
Syracuse didn't go down easy. The Orange had two stellar performances from Terrence Roberts and reserve player Paul Harris. Roberts, a 6-9 senior playing on a bad knee, scored 10 points but pulled down 20 rebounds. The problem for Roberts and Syracuse was free throw shooting. Roberts was 0-for-6 from the charity stripe and as a team the Orange hit 16-of-29 free throws. Conversely, Notre Dame drained 22-of-26 from the charity stripe, including several down the stretch to prevent the opposition from getting to a one possession contest. Harris led all Syracuse scorers with 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Big East leading scorer Demetris Nichols, who torched Connecticut yesterday for 28 points, added 17 points while Eric Devendorf chipped in 19 but the two combined to shoot 13-of-37 from the floor.To counter Roberts down low, Notre Dame turned to freshman Luke Harangody and he delivered. The 6-8, 250-pound freshman scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds. It was Harangody's sixth double-double of the season and his second against the Orange in as many games. He scored on offensive putbacks and by finding open holes inside versus the Syracuse 2-3 zone defense. Also finding holes was the other freshman star, Tory Jackson. The Irish point guard scored eight points but it was his nine assists to only two turnovers that made the difference. Jackson continues to limit his mistakes and find teammates for high percentage shots. It's a big reason why Notre Dame is the highest scoring team in the Big East and one win away from a shot at the tournament title.