Facing real adversity for the first time all season, #1 Syracuse fell flat on their faces. With starting center Fab Melo not traveling with the team due to an academic issue and reserve guard Mookie Jones having left the team for personal reasons, the Orange (20-1, 7-1 Big East) turned in an all-around flat performance at Notre Dame, losing 67-58.
The Irish (12-8, 4-3) tore up the SU defense, shooting 50 percent in the game on field goals. The 12th-best team in the Big East on three-point attempts also made 8-of-16 shots from beyond the arc. Syracuse also sputtered on offense, getting zero fast break points and shooting 34 percent in the game, including a punchless 28.6 percent in the first half, as part of a performance that set season lows in points, field goals, and field goal percentage.
A pair of triples for the Irish jumpstarted them toward an 11-2 lead before the game was three minutes old. SU got within five points three minutes later, but Notre Dame unleashed an avalanche on them. The Orange gave up a 10-3 run, seemingly stopping the burst with a three-pointer to get within 23-14. Notre Dame responded, however, by outscoring SU 12-3 to take a 35-17 lead with under 90 seconds on the clock. Syracuse got a pair of threes before the half to clip the margin to 35-23 at the break.
Syracuse got the deficit down to 38-30 a couple minutes into the second session, but the Irish hung a 10-1 run to go up by 17 with less than six minutes elapsed. The Orange made an effort to get back into the game, ripping off nine straight points to get within 50-42 with just over five minutes left. However, SU would never get closer until a three got them within six with less than a minutes left, but it was too little too late.
James Southerland came off the bench to top the Orange with 15 points before fouling out. Kris Joseph scored a dozen points and Dion Waiters chipped in with 11. Waiters also collected four steals in the game.
The Orange aim for a happy ending of their brief trip Monday evening, against Cincinnati. The Bearcats (15-5, 5-2) had a three-game win streak snapped at West Virginia on Saturday, dropping them into a three-way tie for third in the conference. Tip-off is 7:00pm Eastern and ESPN will televise the game, as well as stream it online at ESPN3.com.
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