Winning basketball games is a lot easier when you get a 23-1 run in the first ten minutes of the game. That is the primary takeaway from Thursday night, as Syracuse responded to an early timeout to blitz Notre Dame and run away with an 81-66 win at the Carrier Dome.
After a brief lecture from head coach Jim Boeheim, the Orange (14-8, 4-5 ACC) simply manhandled the Fighting Irish (14-6, 5-3) for a span of seven-and-a-half minutes, effectively ending the game before most fans were comfortably in their seats. The victory is the fourth in five games for SU, who continues to bounce back from losing their first four conference games.
The Irish were without their top player, point guard Demetrius Jackson, and Syracuse took advantage. The Orange forced nine first half turnovers, including four in the first five minutes of the game, and turned those mistakes into 16 points. The SU defense also held Notre Dame to 34.5 percent shooting in the first half, leading by as many as 20 points before the break.
After the Irish scored the first five points of the game, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim called time out to share some thoughts and substitute Tyler Lydon into the lineup for DaJuan Coleman. The move paid off in spades as Lydon jumpstarted the Orange offense.
The freshman first fed Tyler Roberson for a reverse lay-up and free throw, then drained a three to give SU a lead they would never relinquish. Lydon then tacked on a stickback for an 8-5 Syracuse lead. Trevor Cooney then scored twice around a pair of Malachi Richardson free throws, first curling in a lefty lay-in, then sticking a pull-up jumper, to make it 14 consecutive Orange points.
Notre Dame got a free throw to end the SU streak, but Michael Gbinije dropped in a lay-up and Roberson followed with a tap-in to push the margin to a dozen points. Lydon zipped a crosscourt pass to Cooney, who drained a three, then Roberson scored on another offensive rebound to make it 23-6 in favor of the hosts just before the midpoint of the opening half.
A few minutes later, the Irish would clip the lead down to a dozen points, but Gbinije dropped in two foul shots, then Cooney swiped an outlet pass and turned it into a three-point-play to give Syracuse a 17-point lead once more.
Notre Dame responded by again whittling the margin down to 12, only to have Lydon score eight straight points for the Orange and make it a 20-point game. Lydon first scooped up a loose ball and laid it in, then hit a three early in the shot clock on the next possession. After SU worked the game clock down, on their ensuing trip, Lydon curled in another second three for a 44-24 lead with just a few seconds left in the half.
Those few seconds were too many on the clock, though, as Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia banked in a half-court shot to make it 44-27 at the break.
The Irish kept at it in the second half’s opening minutes, drawing within 12 points on three occasions, but Syracuse dropped a 15-4 burst on them, effectively ending the game with 11 minutes to play.
Richardson opened the burst by drawing a foul on a three-pointer and tacked on the free throw. Gbinije added a foul-line pull-up jumper and a nifty right-to-left reverse lay-up around an Irish foul shot. After a Notre Dame triple, Roberson found Gbinije gliding down the lane for a lay-in. Coleman gathered an offensive rebound and powered through a foul for a three-point-play, then added a two-handed jam off a Roberson touch pass to give the Orange a 63-40 stranglehold on the game with 11:05 on the clock.
SU would take their largest lead of the night at 70-46 less than three minutes later, then cruised to the finish line from there.
Trevor Cooney tied for game-high honors, piling up 22 points in the game, including hitting three triples. Tyler Lydon posted his fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 15 points and ten rebounds. Lydon scored 13 of his points in the first half. Michael Gbinije and Malachi Richardson also each had 15 points, the latter also connecting on a trio of treys. Tyler Roberson finished the game with nine points and nine rebounds.
V.J. Beachem topped Notre Dame with 22 points, while Steve Vasturia had 16 points. Bonzie Colson finished with nine points and ten boards and Zach Auguste had eight points to go with his ten rebounds.
SU faces a quick turnaround, as they will host Georgia Tech for a Saturday matinee. The Yellow Jackets (12-8, 2-5) broke a streak of five losses in six games on Wednesday by jumping all over NC State late in the first half and holding on for a 90-83 victory. Three different Tech players topped 20 points in that game, led by Marcus Georges-Hunt, who had 26.
Georges-Hunt is the top scorer on the season for GT, averaging 16.4 points per game. Three other Yellow Jackets average double figures in scoring, including forward Charles Mitchell, who averages 11.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Adam Smith, who averages 14.4 points per game, also makes 3.3 three-pointers per contest, including having made eight in a loss at Pitt.
Noon Eastern is Saturday’s scheduled tip time. ESPNU will handle the television duties and the telecast will also be available online at espn3.com and through the WatchESPN app.