Syracuse entered Saturday’s home game against a shorthanded Notre Dame team as the 15th-best rebounding team in the nation and ended the game on the losing end of both a 15-rebound margin in the stat book and a 51-49 margin on the scoreboard. Even without leading rebounder Bonzie Colson, the Fighting Irish (13-3, 3-0 ACC) whipped the Orange (12-4, 1-2) on the glass, 42-27, including a 23-11 edge in the second half. Notre Dame and grabbed 21 offensive boards and converted them to 16 second chance points.
The Irish were also without starting point guard Matt Farrell, but their rebounding combined with a tough defense in the second half enabled them to dig out of a nine-point hole after halftime.
SU was exceptionally good on defense in the first half, holding the Fighting Irish to 20.7 percent shooting from the field, including a meager 2-of-12 from three-point range. The Syracuse offense had one of its better halves in the first, making half their shots and 5-of-8 triples, but only made 30.8 percent from the floor in the second half.
Things started off very well for the Orange, as they did not allow an Irish field goal for almost six minutes of the game and would not allow a second field goal until after the midpoint of the opening half. SU also rang up nine straight points in that time for an early eight-point lead.
After an ND foul shot opened the scoring, Tyus Battle hit a contested jumper in the paint and Oshae Brissett drained a straightaway three on consecutive possessions for Syracuse. Battle added a coast-to-coast lay-up and a one-handed push shot from the right baseline to push the Orange lead to 9-1 less than five-and-a-half minutes into the action.
SU promptly went into its own field goal drought, going over six minutes without a basket. Battle struck for a three to end the dry stretch, giving the Orange a five-point lead.
Shortly after, the Orange needed just over a minute to hang seven unanswered points and take a double-digit lead. Paschal Chukwu had a putback to start three straight positive possessions for SU. Marek Dolezaj added a pair of foul shots and Frank Howard closed the burst with a trey from the top of the key for a 22-12 lead with four minutes and change left in the first half.
Howard would swish a three-pointer in transition three minutes later to give Syracuse their biggest lead of the day at 11 points, but a pair of Irish foul shots sent the game to intermission at 28-19.
Notre Dame would add the first eight markers after the break to make it ten straight points and draw within 28-27 less then three minutes into the second half. The Orange responded with the next two scores, including another Brissett three-pointer, to push their lead out to a half dozen.
Scores were hard to come by for both teams and the gap ranged between two and five points until a Fighting Irish three brought them within 38-37 with under seven minutes on the clock. The two teams alternated scores for the next four minutes until Notre Dame backed a dunk with a pair of foul shots to take their first lead since the opening minutes at 45-44. An Irish lay-in pushed their lead to three, but Battle answered with a floater to bring SU within a single point again.
Notre Dame added a pair of foul shots to their side of the ledger to go up by three with just under a minute to go, but Battle came off a screen to swish a three and knot the game at 49 with 49 seconds to play. Battle then came up with a steal and brought the ball up the floor.
After killing some clock from deep on the wing, Battle drove toward the key, but was stripped by an Irish defender. Notre Dame’s Martinas Geben came up with the ball and tossed a lead pass. T.J. Gibbs controlled the pass and drove to the basket, but missed while being harassed by a pair of SU defenders. His teammate Rex Pflueger trailed the play while Syracuse’s Howard and Dolezaj stopped their pursuit. Pflueger collected the rebound and scored with 2.6 seconds to go.
The Orange inbounded to Howard, but his heave from beyond halfcourt grazed the outside of the net and was released after the final horn, anyway.
Tyus Battle was the top scorer in the game, finishing with 21 points. Oshae Brissett had ten points and 11 boards, but had most of his success in the first half with seven points and ten rebounds before the break. Brissett made three triples, but went 0-for-8 inside the arc and 3-for-15 overall. Frank Howard also had ten points for the Orange.
T.J. Gibbs led Notre Dame with 18 points in the game while Rex Pflueger also joined him in double figures with a dozen. Martinas Geben had 14 rebounds for the Irish, including ten on the defensive glass, and D.J. Harvey had nine boards.
The Orange travel to Charlottesville on Tuesday to take on #8 Virginia. The Cavaliers (14-1, 3-0) have won six straight games, including Saturday’s 61-49 home victory over #12 North Carolina.
As usual, the Cavs are sporting one of the stingiest defenses in the nation, having allowed opponents to top 55 points in a game four times this season. Kyle Guy leads Virginia with just under 15 points per game and has made 41 threes on the season at over a 44 percent clip.
Tip-off is set for 8:00pm Eastern and the action will be televised by the ACC Network on local affiliates in certain markets. The telecast will also be available online at ESPN3.com.