Right from the start the Orange dumped the ball inside to center Arinze Onuaku who took it right to the reigning Big East Player of the Year, Luke Harangody. Onuaku scored SU's first two baskets and helped establish the inside game early on.
About four minutes in, the Orange put together an 11-0 run to create a little gap between itself and the Irish. Once again, the ‘Cuse looked inside and fed the ball to Onuaku who capitalized by dropping in the final two buckets to cap the run.
Then Andy Rautins, playing with an injured left knee he suffered against G'Town, knocked down a three and intercepted a pass on defense which he cashed in for an easy layup to give SU a 26-14 lead with 11 minutes remaining in the first half.
The Orange pushed the advantage to thirteen, the largest in the first 20 minutes of play, but Notre Dame responded. The Irish went on a 7-0 run to cut into the deficit. Syracuse though was able to hold them at bay and went to the locker room with a 42-35 lead.
On top of getting production from Onuaku who went 6-of-7 from the field for 12 points, the Orange defense was stout. The ‘Cuse held the Irish to 34 percent shooting and did a good job on guard Kyle McAlarney who only managed to connect on two shots from beyond the arc.
Syracuse wasn't satisfied in its ability to get a lead on Notre Dame. Again, the Orange said, "We are going to play our style of basketball." That's exactly what happened in the second half. Once again, Onuaku scored the first basket which set the tone for the next few minutes as SU increased its lead to seventeen.
The two teams traded baskets for a bit, but then the Irish started to make up ground. An 8-0 scoring streak cut the lead in half as McAlarney found some space to drain two shots from downtown to make the score 61-53. The Orange responded immediately with an 8-0 run of its own. Sophomore Rick Jackson started it with a thunderous two-handed slam and then made a nice move in the post to push the lead back up to 16.
But the Irish weren't quite finished. With a little more than six minutes to go, McAlarney nailed one from long distance to pull Notre Dame within five. It was the closest the Irish had been since the 13:56 mark of the first half. But Syracuse wouldn't let this game slip through its fingers.
Point guard Jonny Flynn made three baskets within a two minute span to get the lead back into double-digits, 82-72. SU made its last eight free throw attempts to seal the game and send the Irish back to South Bend with a loss.
Some other observations from Syracuse's 93-74 win over Notre Dame:
· A lot of good things to say about the Orange. SU held an advantage in almost every statistical category. Syracuse outscored Notre Dame in the paint by a whopping 30 points (54-24). The Orange pushed the ball in this game which is where this team is so dangerous. SU scored 39 fastbreak points while ND only managed 11. Finally, Syracuse only had 11 turnovers, which has been the Achilles heel for this team. And the ‘Cuse capitalized on 13 Notre Dame mistakes, converting those into 20 points.
· The performance on the low block by Onuaku and Jackson was phenomenal. The two big men combined for a stat line of 33 points, 18 rebounds, and seven blocks. They were not intimidated by Harangody one bit. And while ND's big guy scored 25 points and pulled down 16 rebounds, he was only 9-of-28 from the floor and grabbed only five boards in the second half. Onuaku did a terrific job of moving his feet and keeping his hands straight up to avoid fouls and affect Harangody's quick shot release.
· To continue that point, Syracuse's defense was fairly good. Yes, Harangody and McAlarney combined to score 49 points. But the Irish only shot 35.5 percent for the game and only near the end did McAlarney begin to catch fire from the outside.
· On the other end, the Orange offense was clicking as it made 55 percent of its field goals. Syracuse finished the game with six players in double-figures, led by Onuaku who had 19 points. Following him was Flynn who dropped in 17 and dished out 9 assists for the third consecutive outing. Eric Devendorf added 16 while the man he replaced, Rautins, finished with 10 after sitting most of the second half with four fouls. Paul Harris recorded a double-double, 15 points and 10 boards, and so did Jackson who had 14 and 10. With every game he plays, Jackson is becoming more reliable on offense as he feels more comfortable and incorporates some low post moves and develops a soft touch inside the lane.
· The highlight of the game came about midway through the second half. Harris finished a beautiful transition opportunity with a high-flying dunk. It sent quite a buzz among the 30,021 in attendance which was the largest NCAA on-campus crowd of the season.
Syracuse (17-2, 5-1 Big East) ranked eighth in the country travels to Pittsburgh to take on the number one Panthers. That game will be on ESPN's "Big Monday" with a seven o'clock tip.