There is no faulting Syracuse's effort. The Orange trailed by 10 points at halftime, but Notre Dame never put them away. They attacked the basket relentlessly but missed shots from near and far, shooting just 40% from the field and 30% from three point range.
Mike Brey employed a different strategy against the 2-3 zone than whet he has used in the past. Instead of a high post passer, ND ran its regular sets with the offense going through Harangody in the post. The Irish moved the ball when the zone collapsed on Harangody, and McAlarney was the main beneficiary when the Orange couldn't recover as quickly as they moved the ball.
Notre Dame improved its record to 21-5, 11-3 in the Big East. Syracuse fell to 17-11, 7-8 in the conference.
McAlarney's game will get the headlines, deservedly so. Harangody's double-double against a talented, athletic Syracuse front line will be duly noted. Others' contributions should not go unnoticed.
Zach Hillesland had 6 points on 3-3 shooting, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks, and a steal. After Paul Harris scored 15 first half points on 4-6 shooting and 6-6 from the free throw line, Hillesland held him to 3-12 shooting and limited him to just 2 free throw attempts in the second half.
McAlarney and Tory Jackson were fresh in the second half because Jonathan Peoples played 11 quality minutes in the first half. Peoples scored 7 points on 3-3 shooting and played excellent defense as the starters took turns resting. "He's a big plus for us," said Jackson. "He gives us confidence. We know he'll play well coming off the bench."
Ryan Ayers chipped in with 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in 26 minutes. His highlight was a thunderous dunk off a steal that brought the Notre Dame bench to its feet. "The team's always getting on me, saying I can't dunk," said Ayers. "Now they're going to lay off me for a while."
Match-UpsNotre Dame's three point shooting vs. the Syracuse 2-3 zone – The Irish made 14 of 25 of their three point shots, 56%. McAlarney was 11 for 13. Brey said that his outside shooters "start drooling" when they see a zone. "You almost need a towel to wipe their chins off because they can cut and move so well."
Luke Harangody vs. SU's shot blockers – Harangody muscled his way to 14 points, but he was most effective when passing out of baseline traps. When he kept the ball moving, shooters got open as McAlarney will attest.
Tory Jackson vs. Jonny Flynn – Flynn had 17 points to Jackson's 10, but he was just 6-21 from the field and 3-11 from three point range. Jackson was 2 for 3 and made his only three point attempt. Flynn had an excellent floor game, 6 assists and just 1 turnover to Jackson's 2 and 2
SU against itself shooting from long range – The Orange made just 6 of 20 three point attempts.
Whenever Syracuse looked like it was ready to make a run at the Irish, a McAlarney three pointer blunted the charge. Looking for one last chance, the Orange cut the lead to 6 with 3:30 to play. Then Hillesland took control for a few minutes. He followed a Harangody drive for a basket with blocked shots on the next two Syracuse possessions. A drive to the basket and dish for a Harangody dunk came next. Finally he corralled a rebound in traffic that drew Arinze Onuaku's fourth foul. The lead was back to 10, and the outcome was never in doubt again.
Notre Dame at Louisville on Thursday, February 28, at 7:00 EST.