Instant Juice: Syracuse 84, Notre Dame 82

Elijah Hughes Notre Dame
Syracuse Orange forward Elijah Hughes (33) shoots over Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Rex Pflueger (0) in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Indiana. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore/USA Today Sports.

A quick take on Syracuse’s 84-82 road win over Notre Dame on Wednesday evening:

WHAT HAPPENED: In a tightly contested back and forth game that saw Syracuse trail by as many as 11 in the first half and lead by as many as 13 in the second half, the game predictably came down to the final seconds. Notre Dame erased Syracuse’s once commanding second half lead, taking a brief 69-68 lead after Dane Goodwin layup with 5:58 to go. The Orange immediately responded with a 10-1 run, sparked by Buddy Boeheim rebounding his own miss for a basket. By the time Elijah Hughes finished off the run with a pair of free throws with 43 seconds left, the Orange led 78-70. Still, the game wasn’t fully decided until Joe Girard’s free throws with nine seconds left put the Orange up 84-80.

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ANALYSIS: Think back to the aftermath of Syracuse’s disappointing 67-63 loss to the Hokies on Jan. 7. The loss dropped SU to 8-7 overall and 1-3 in conference, and it had some questioning whether Jim Boeheim would have his first losing season in his storied history at The Hill. Since then, the Orange has reeled of four straight wins, including three Quad 1 wins, a metric used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Quad 1 wins are awarded for defeating top 75 teams in NET rankings on the road, and Notre Dame qualifies as one at the moment, with the Irish sitting exactly at 75. It would’ve seemed like a pipe dream just three weeks ago, but with games against ACC alphas Duke, Florida State and Louisville still on the schedule, Syracuse is still very much alive for an at-large NCAA berth. The Orange has thrust itself back into the conversation on its revenge tour, beating three teams that previously beat them at home earlier in the season (Virginia and Virginia Tech being the other two teams).

HERO: Elijah Hughes led all scorers with 26 points to go with seven rebounds. Brycen Goodine replaced an injured Howard Washington in the lineup, playing four key minutes at the end of the first half to spell a foul-riddled Boeheim. He nailed the first 3-pointer of his career after missing his first 13 attempts, and showed his youthful energy by grabbing two offensive rebounds. For Notre Dame, John Mooney was his usual double-double self, posting a stellar 21-point, 13-rebound stat line.

ZERO: Syracuse has not been a good rebounding team this season, and Notre Dame possesses one of the best rebounders in college basketball. So it may shock you that Syracuse was actually +7 on the boards, led by Girard’s nine rebounds. Juwan Durham, who came in averaging 6.1 rebounds, collected only one rebound in 13 minutes.

WHAT’S NEXT: Syracuse returns to action on Saturday, hosting Pitt at the Carrier Dome at noon. TV: ACC Network.

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Wes Cheng
About Wes Cheng 2580 Articles
Wes has worked for Rivals.com covering the New York Knicks, as well as for Scout.com covering Syracuse athletics. Wes has also worked for the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong) and reported on the NBA and MLB for the New York Sportscene. A native of Long Island, New York, Wes graduated from Syracuse University in 2005. Follow him on Twitter @ChengWes.