Syracuse upends No. 25 Notre Dame in Demetrious Jackson's absence
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said Syracuse has that look — the look of a team headed for postseason play.
"Syracuse is an NCAA team and obviously, with Jim back, they have that look," Brey said after his No. 25 Irish were knocked off by the Orange, 81-66, on Thursday night, snapping his team's four-game winning streak.
"They're a confident team," Brey said. "When you win at Wake and you win at Duke within three days, you have something to work with. No one wins at Virginia, so I wouldn't even count that. They know they have a very important homestand, and they started off very focused and played really well."
Syracuse hosts Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Florida State before hitting the road again.
Orange coach Jim Boeheim wouldn't acknowledge his team had the "look."
"I'll know where we are at the end of the season," said Boeheim, who has guided the Orange to a 10-3 mark this season. During his NCAA-mandated suspension, Syracuse was 4-5 under interim coach Mike Hopkins.
Trevor Cooney scored 22 points to lead four Syracuse players in double figures. Michael Gbinije, Tyler Lydon and Malachi Richardson each scored 15, with Lydon adding a team-high 10 rebounds.
It was the fourth victory of the season over a ranked team for Syracuse (14-8, 4-5 ACC), which built a 44-27 halftime lead and was not threatened in the second half by the Irish (14-6, 5-3).
Boeheim was generally pleased with his team's performance, particularly on the defensive end.
"Offensively, Trevor got us going in the first half. It was pretty much like the Bahamas," Boeheim said, referring to the Orange's sweep to win the Battle 4 Atlantis title. "He got wide-open looks. The whole key to this game was going to be defense. I thought we stepped up defensively. We made them take tough shots. It starts with our defense. That's the difference for us."
Notre Dame played without injured point guard and leading scorer Demetrius Jackson, who was out nursing an injured hamstring.
"We were a little rudderless at times without Demetrius, no question," Brey said, "and we may have to keep playing without him for a while."
Notre Dame freshman guard Rex Pflueger made his first career start in place of Jackson. Steve Vasturia started at point guard.
V.J. Beachem led Notre Dame with 22 points on 5-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc, four in the second half, while Vasturia finished with 16 points. Pflueger finished with two points, six assists and zero turnovers.
The Irish, who average just nine turnovers a game, the best in the country, had nine in the game's first 15 minutes and finished with 11, four by Vasturia.
"What hurt us in the first was that we turned the ball over nine times," Brey said. "That's just too deep a hole. In the second half, we got off to a good start and you're thinking `maybe,' but they answered every charge."
Notre Dame moved within 48-36 on a pair of free throws by Vasturia with 16:15 left, but Richardson followed with a four-point play, hitting a 3 from the left wing while being fouled by Beachem. Dajuan Coleman followed with a block for the Orange and Gbinije finished at the other end with a foul line jumper to boost the lead back to 18.
"We're just looking to win," Gbinije said. "Everyone is playing invested, not selfish. After not going to the tournament last year, it sticks with me. We just want to make a run."
Notre Dame scored the game's first five points before Syracuse responded with a 23-1 run, led by seven from Cooney, including two 3-pointers, and seven more by Tyler Roberson.
Notre Dame went nearly nine minutes between field goals. A hook by Bonzie Colson with 9:40 to go in the half ended the drought.
Vasturia rallied the Irish to within 12 at 31-19 on eight straight points, but the Orange pulled away for a 44-27 lead at the half. Vasturia hit a 3-point shot from just inside midcourt as time expired.
The Irish closed to within 12 points twice early in the second half before the Orange pulled away to its biggest lead at 63-40 on Coleman's slam with 11:06 to go.
Notre Dame: Irish entered the game averaging only 6.4 turnovers over their last five games and ranked No. 1 nationally in fewest turnovers per game at 9.2. ... Zach Auguste, who was tied for second in the ACC with 11 double-doubles and was averaging 16.3 points and 12 rebounds over his previous four games, finished with eight points and 10 rebounds against the Orange. ... Colson, who averaged 20.7 points over his previous three games, finished with nine. ... Vasturia has hit double digits in 17 of 20 games.
Syracuse: Gbinije has scored in double figures a league-best 23 straight games and is the only player to rank in the top five in scoring (17.4), assists (4.5) and steals (2.5). Gbinije leads the ACC and ranks fifth nationally in steals with 53 (2.52 per game). ... Cooney has made at least one 3-point field goal in an ACC-best 26 straight games and ranks sixth among active ACC players in career scoring with 1,267 points. ... The Orange hosted a "Dress Like Boeheim" night against the Fighting Irish and asked fans to come to the game decked out in some of the fashions sported by the Hall of Fame coach decades ago. ... SU is 3-1 in the ACC when it outrebounds its opponent.
Notre Dame plays Wake Forest at home on Sunday.
Syracuse hosts Georgia Tech on Saturday.