Just 18 days ago, Syracuse held a three point lead at the half over Notre Dame, but a second half meltdown led to a Fighting Irish win. Tonight, with that loss still fresh in their minds, the Orange were hungry for revenge and got what they were looking for in a 84-82 victory. The win is Syracuse’s fourth in a row and improves its record to 12-7. What went from a down season without tournament aspirations has quickly flipped. Wednesday’s game with the Fighting Irish illuminated some details about this new-look SU team. So, here are three major takeaways from Syracuse versus Notre Dame.
SU CAN FUNCTION WITH ONLY ONE OF THE BIG THREE
There has been a lot said about Syracuse’s “big three” this year. The combination of Elijah Hughes, Buddy Boeheim and Joe Girard has been electric. Yet, there have been few times all three of them have played their best basketball in the same game.
Sure, on the surface that makes sense. If one guy is having a good game, he is probably taking the other two’s shots. But the thing is, that doesn’t have to be the case. There are plenty of teams, past and present, that have two or three guys that go off at the same time.
The thing with Syracuse is, it is still being successful even with only one of the “big three” having a good game. For example, Boeheim went off against Virginia Tech last weekend, while Hughes didn’t have his best game. The same thing happened on Wednesday against Notre Dame, but the roles were reversed. Hughes poured in 26 points, while Boeheim only mustered 10 on 5-14 shooting.
This trend is a promising sign for Syracuse. The Orange are still being competitive with only one of their stars on. It will be an exciting and fun game when two or three of them catch fire at the same time.
SECOND HALF STRUGGLES ARE BECOMING A CONSISTENT PROBLEM
Syracuse only led by four at the half, but extended it to a 13 point game halfway through the second. The Orange were sitting pretty and just had to maintain what they were doing, but in classic SU-fashion the lead vanished.
Struggling in the second half has been a trend this year. Syracuse lost to Notre Dame and to Virginia Tech because of the second half. In both of those games, the Orange had a lead at halftime.
Against Notre Dame this time around, Syracuse was able to hold on to the lead and get the win, but its second half performance was still worrisome. If SU wants to be a serious team and make a deep run in the postseason, it will need to fix this problem and play a full 40 minutes.
DOLEZAJ IS THIS TEAM’S MVP
The “big three” gets a lot of attention, but you have to give Marek Dolezaj credit. He does everything for Syracuse. Whether Bourama Sidibe is in or not, Dolezaj is SU’s best rebounder. He is a game manager that can slow the tempo and be a safe choice to give the ball to down the stretch. Dolezaj plays on both ends of the court. Against Notre Dame, he had nine points, six rebounds, and three assists. There isn’t enough to say about Marek Dolezaj. He is Syracuse’s MVP.
Next up for Syracuse is Pittsburgh on Saturday.