Coming up short...

Syracuse's NCAA tourney chances were dealt a crippling blown on Sunday afternoon as the Orange fell to Notre Dame 94-87 at the Joyce Center. The 'Cuse was simply unable to contain Notre Dame's perimeter attack, which outscored the Orange by 24 points from beyond the three point arc. Kyle McAlarney ripped up the SU zone with 30 points on 9-11 three-point shooting

Syracuse University’s tournament hopes are dwindling. After suffering a seven-point defeat at No. 21 Notre Dame, the Orange’s Big East record has dropped below five hundred at 7-8. With a 17-11 overall record and an RPI of 46, many people think they have to win out in order to make the NCAA tournament. With upcoming home games against Pittsburgh and Marquette, the young Orangemen will have a chance to play likely tournament teams in a friendlier environment. These are two teams Syracuse needs to beat if they want to secure an NCAA tournament berth rather than worry about NIT seeding.

The Joyce Center is not a fun place to play. The Orange were the latest victim in the home court slaughter, as Notre Dame extended their Division I home court winning streak to thirty-six games. Kyle McAlarney broke Matt Carroll ’s and Colin Falls’ records of eight threes in a game. He was 9/11 from beyond the arc. Unbelievable. The sharp-shooting sophomore guard ripped the zone. He did so while demonstrating his unbelievable range, quick release, and keen concentration. In the first half he was fouled by Donte’ Green on a three from the corner, but still managed to drain it.

It was even enough to cause the stubborn Boeheim to switch out of his preferred zone and put his best man-to-man defender, and offensive workhorse, Paul Harris on McAlarney. This strategy was effective and the Orange were able to get back in the game both in the first half and down the stretch. But McAlarney burned the Orange with a casual thirty footer the last time the Orange fell back into the zone. It wasn’t the final dagger, but down the stretch untimely misses and turnovers proved too much to overcome. Syracuse's young players need to learn how to handle adversity and finish strong regardless of the environment.

Out of the zone there is no defensive answer for a guy who can hit a thirty-footer. The Orange tried to pack it in early and minimize Luke Harangody’s touches but were quickly scorched from the outside as the Irish Jumped out to a 11-8 lead. With 7:08 on the clock the score was 29-25 in favor of the Irish. The lead blossomed to a halftime total of ten (46-36). The Irish bench sparked the run. The three ball was the story of the game, but the bench production should not be overlooked. From behind the arch the Orange were not able to connect consistently while the Irish who shot 54.7% for the game and 60% at halftime had everyone involved in the offense. Considering how well the Irish shot the ball, trailing 36-46 at the half didn’t seem so bad.

In the second half the Orange battled back to cut the lead to six points with four minutes remaining at 72-78, but thanks to some favorable calls and untimely errors, that lead would not be challenged. Harangody scored a lay-up that could have been called an offensive foul. Later he was caught in a trap and should have been called for a travel. Instead it was called a jump ball and the arrow pointed in favor of the Irish.

The game closed with both AO and Donte’ Green fouling out, while no one on the ND side was in foul trouble. Flynn and Harangody got into it at the end, but instead of the referees calling Harangody for a travel they called a jump ball between him and Flynn. I can understand why Flynn was upset with the call and wanted he let Harangody know that he had traveled. In yet another bizzare call Flynn was called for a jump ball in the first half, negating the interior tough basket he scored.

Jonny Flynn drives to the basket.

A couple of costly turnovers down the stretch hurt the comeback effort and lead to Irish baskets. The ball seemed to always have an Irish bounce. In traffic lay-ups by Jackson, KO, AO, and Harris started rolling off the rim and loose balls bounced into Irish hands or off Orange hands. The importance of a bench is evident in any game that is played at such a high energy level. Scoop was a little spark off the bench but the energy brought onto the court by Ayers and Peoples ignited strong finishes.

The unit seamed to be a little shaky on offense. Donte’ Green was an offensive nonfactor, being in foul trouble the whole game before fouling out with 5:45 left. He scored five point on 2/7 shooting and entirely missed the rim on two occasions. His performances on the road have been anything but impressive as of late. Hopefully he will play better at the Dome.

It was a physical Big East game with smashmouth inside action. I think the Orange won the physical battle, but lost the game because of the three ball. AO was a center for contact, but he got tired and missed some late stage lay-ups. If everything were a dunk he would be fine. If he could figure out a way to stretch out his shoulder maybe then he could get his arm to be fully extended on a lay-up. He played with a lot of heart every minute he was out there and was up against one of the best Big East bigmen in Luke Harangody but he gassed at the end. Final totals: nineteen points and twelve boards.

Harris finished twelve boards and twenty-two points. In the first half he answered McAlarney’s threes with mid-range jumpers. Once he even answered with a three of his own from the top of the key. Harris was able to silence the crowd a handful of times, but as a whole Syracuse was never able to sustain a run. He. Up until the last four minutes Harris carried his teammates and battled inside with AO but down the stretch the big men fumbled as they simply didn't get enough support from their teammates. The Joyce Center is a difficult place to play, but at some point these guys are going to have to learn to deal with adversity.

Paul Harris's excellent play wasn't enough to snap Notre Dame's win streak.

Donte’ will learn and I think he will come back with a good game against Pittsburgh. If Donte’ would have been hitting from the outside and out of foul trouble, this game could have resulted in a big W instead of a suffocating loss. In the future it would be nice to see a little more of Scoop off the bench if one of other freshmen is struggling. Scoop contributed in the first half and down the stretch he hit a couple shots and assisted AO for a dunk. Unfortunately, these individually talented young men have not realized the concept of a team. Until that happens, the NIT seems like the probable post-season destination.


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