After trailing throughout, Syracuse came back to edge Notre Dame in front of a packed JMA Wireless Dome crowd.
Here are the main takeaways as the Orange notched its fifth ACC win.
#1: Syracuse to relied on its freshmen down the stretch
Syracuse, down 56-44 with just under 13 minutes left, began to press to speed up Notre Dame on offense. The Orange frequently uses a press to try to rally, but the lineup Jim Boeheim used was unusual.
During crunch time, Boeheim played freshmen Judah Mintz, Justin Taylor, Maliq Brown and Chris Bell, along with senior center Jesse Edwards. The young group stepped up to limit Notre Dame offensively and convert on clutch shots. The freshmen on the floor accounted for 15 of SU’s final 17 points.
“With four freshman and Jesse on the floor I thought to myself, that is a veteran team and this game is in serious jeopardy,” Boeheim said. “But our guys just made some plays… it was an unbelievable effort to get back into this game.”
Bell led Syracuse with 17 points and 5 3-pointers, while Brown continued to get key minutes (19) and added 15 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks.
“We are halfway through the season now, so being a freshman is no excuse,” Mintz said. “We all here and we are all ready to play. We have been given opportunities and now is our time.”
#2: Irish make the Orange pay from the perimeter early on
Syracuse needed a big rally because Notre Dame seemingly could not miss from 3-point land.
The Fighting Irish were 9 for 18 from downtown in the first half, and, fittingly, it was a Marcus Hammond 3-pointer with 12:18 to go that gave Notre Dame its biggest lead of the evening, 59-47.
Aside from switching to the press, SU tightened its perimeter defense, and Notre Dame began to settle for shots inside the arc. More importantly, the Irish were 1-10 from the perimeter to end the game.
That got the JMA Wireless Dome crowd, which recorded a season-high attendance of 35,446, back into the game.
“I am not sure exactly where it changed, but I know we heard (the crowd),” Brown said.
#3: Judah Mintz finds other ways to contribute
It was not Mintz’s shooting night. The star freshman point guard shot just 3-9 from the field and 0-3 from downtown. But Mintz found other ways to affect the game.
He got to the line 10 times, hitting 8 free throws to finish with 14 points. More importantly, Mintz kept everyone involved, dishing out 8 assists and turning the ball over just once.
It was a gutty performance for Mintz, who contributed to 51 points from Syracuse’s freshmen.
“I knew I was going to have to impact the game in a different way,” Mintz said. “I really didn’t have it going in the first half, and really not the second half, either. But coach just told us to keep fighting and that’s what we did.”