After trailing most of the night and by as many as a dozen points in the second half, Syracuse leaned on a couple unusual sources to come back for a 78-73 home win over Notre Dame on Saturday night. Jim Boeheim relied on lineups involving three or four freshmen and a full-court press to help the Orange (12-6, 5-2 ACC) erase a 59-47 deficit and knock off the Fighting Irish (9-9, 1-6).
With Joe Girard III sidelined to get medical attention for a cut near his eye, SU came out of the under-12 media timeout with a lineup of freshmen Judah Mintz, Justin Taylor, Chris Bell, and Maliq Brown with sophomore Mounir Hima at center. That unit (which included Jesse Edwards, who replaced Hima after a couple minutes of play) pressed Notre Dame following a jump shot from Taylor, a basket that started a 14-4 Syracuse run that erased almost all of the Irish’s biggest lead of the night in a four-minute span.
The guests pushed the lead back out to a half dozen, but after a Brown dunk, the Orange went to the press again. The change in defense helped get a couple defensive stops while Brown added another slam and Bell hit his fifth three-pointer of the game to make it seven straight points and a 69-68 SU lead.
Notre Dame struck back with their 15th triple of the game for a two-point lead, but Syracuse slammed the door with nine of the last 11 points of the night, seven of them from Mintz. Mintz was a force over the last six minutes of play for the Orange, handing out three assists in the finishing kick to go with those seven points.
The end was demoralizing for the Fighting Irish, who had led for nearly two-thirds of the game. They grabbed control of the contest for the first time early in the opening half, as they needed just over two minutes to make four three-pointers for a 12-5 burst and a 19-15 lead.
SU later hung a 9-3 run to nose out in front by a 26-24 margin, but Notre Dame almost immediately turned the tables and used an 8-2 run to grab a 34-30 lead. Each team connected twice from behind the arc before the break and the Irish held a 40-36 halftime edge. Syracuse got the opening basket of the second half, but the Fighting Irish ran off a 16-6 run on the strength of four triples to grab their first of two 12-point advantages.
Two ultra-efficient efforts led the Orange in the scorebook. Bell shot 5-of-8 from three-point range for the bulk of his career-best 17 points while Brown connected on 7-of-8 shots from the field (4-of-5 lay-ups and three dunks) for a personal-high 15 points. Mintz had a great second half with 11 of his 14 points and seven of his eight assists coming after the break. While it was not as dominant as his 22-point, 16-rebound stat line the first time the two teams met, Edwards finished with 13 points, 15 rebounds, and four blocked shots.
Marcus Hammond topped all scorers in the game with 18 points for Notre Dame, connecting four times from deep. Dane Goodwin had 15 points and Nate Laszewski 14 to go with ten rebounds, each hitting a trio of treys. Trey Wertz lived up to his name for the Fighting Irish, making four three-pointers for all 12 of his points.