Monday night, #9 Syracuse got off the skids by combining a balanced offensive attack with a stifling defense to handle #25 Notre Dame in the Carrier Dome, 63-47, ending their modest losing streak at two games. All three frontcourt starters finished in double figures as Rakeem Christmas, C.J. Fair, and Jerami Grant combined for 44 points, a contrast for the Orange (19-3, 7-2 Big East), who have relied on perimeter players for points over the course of the season. The SU defense stifled the Fighting Irish (18-5, 6-4), holding a team that came into the game shooting 49.3 percent from the field to a 34.6 percent mark in the game and a 27.6 percent mark in the second half.
Syracuse got off to a strong start in their return home, scoring on their first two possessions to propel themselves to a 10-0 lead barely four minutes into the action. The offense went in to the cooler, though, as they missed three shots and turned it over three times, allowing Notre Dame to ring up 11 consecutive points and take their first lead of the night. The Orange regained the lead on three free throws, but the Irish used a basket to tie the score at 13 a side.
Trevor Cooney dropped in a three with just under nine minutes left in the half to give SU the lead and they would not let it go the remainder of the night. Notre Dame stayed close for a couple minutes, but a stretch of six straight Syracuse points capped by a Brandon Triche three-point-play put the hosts up 24-17 with 3:25 on the clock. The Irish cut into the lead on a couple occasions, but Jerami Grant’s lay-up beat the horn and SU held a 30-24 lead at intermission.
The Orange got the first two scores of the second half to stretch the lead to ten, but the Irish matched that effort. Syracuse, however, scored the game’s next nine points to grab a 43-28 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining. Notre Dame clawed back into the game with seven consecutive points, but the Orange used a 9-2 run to deliver the finishing below and grab a 52-37 stranglehold on the game with 4:09 remaining. SU knocked down six consecutive free throws in the final two minutes and capped the game with C.J. Fair’s three-pointer that beat the shot clock on their final possession.
C.J. Fair drove the SU offense with 18 points and collected 10 rebounds for his seventh double-double of the season. He also collected three steals. Jerami Grant had 10 of his career-high 14 points in the first half. Rakeem Christmas chipped in with a dozen points and also blocked three shots in the game. Efficiency was key for Grant and Christmas, as they combined to make 12-of-17 shots. Michael Carter-Williams matched Fair with three steals of his own.
SU will start the second half of conference play on Sunday when they welcome St. John’s to town. The Red Storm (14-8, 6-4) had a five-game win streak snapped over the weekend and host Connecticut prior to coming north from New York City. The game will start at 3 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN.Jim Stechschulte (Follow on Twitter @dsafetyguy)