Syracuse-Notre Dame Preview
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey expressed optimism after watching his high-powered offense show even more potency the past two games.
Those performances, however, were also against a pair of the ACC’s lesser teams, and a better test for the ninth-ranked Fighting Irish could come with Tuesday night’s visit from Syracuse.
Notre Dame (24-4, 12-3) is one of the nation’s top offensive teams, averaging 79.8 points on 51.3 percent shooting and connecting at 40.4 percent from 3-point range. The Irish shot a blistering 66.0 percent in an 87-70 win at Boston College on Saturday, their best performance since converting at 66.7 against Pittsburgh on Jan. 30, 2002.
Bonzie Colzon’s career-high 16 points on 8-of-9 shooting led six players in double figures in Notre Dame’s third straight win. The Irish also hit 11 3-pointers and made 27 of 28 foul shots in an 88-75 victory over Wake Forest last Tuesday.
"We are really talented on that end of the floor. The last two games, we’ve been in a whole other gear. I hope we can continue that because it’s coming at the right time of the year," said Brey, whose team can clinch a top-four finish and bye to the ACC tournament quarterfinals with a win.
Notre Dame’s past two opponents also ranked near the bottom in the ACC defensively, with Wake giving up a league-worst 76.1 points per game in conference play and Boston College tied for second-worst at 72.4.
Syracuse (17-10, 8-6) is allowing an average of 67.9 in league games and stifled then-No. 12 Louisville for a 69-59 home win Wednesday.
The Orange, though, couldn’t end their patten of inconsistency Saturday, falling 65-61 at home to Pitt. Rakeem Christmas had 20 points and 12 rebounds for a team that’s alternated wins and losses in its six games this month.
Christmas, the ACC’s second-leading scorer (18.2 ppg), has a combined 49 in his past two games on 17-of-24 shooting. He has played the full 40 minutes in each of the Orange’s last five road games and 313 of a possible 320 in the last eight overall.
Syracuse has won five of the last six matchups with Notre Dame but was a top 10 team in all of those games, including a 61-55 victory last season in their first contest as ACC opponents. Trevor Cooney had a career-high 33 points in that win, but has totaled three on 1-of-15 shooting in his past two games and went scoreless against Pitt.
Syracuse, which is 0-3 on the road against ranked opponents this season and 1-4 overall, has dropped five in a row to Top 25 teams on the road since a 58-56 win at Pitt on Feb. 12, 2014.
"It’s just another game to prove we’re a good team and another chance to go out play," junior forward Michael Gbinije said. "We’re going to be eager, especially coming off of a loss. We’re looking forward to it."
Following this game, Notre Dame – which trails No. 2 Virginia by 1 1/2 games for the ACC lead – is idle until a March 4 contest at No. 17 Louisville.