To say that Syracuse turned it on after falling behind 5-0 would be a huge understatement. The Orange ripped off a 23-1 run and took a 17 point lead into halftime. The first half was a perfect statement for all of the 2-3 zone lovers out there as the Irish turned the ball over 9 times despite averaging a nation’s best 9.2 turnovers per game.
The second half looked more like the Orange were trying to manage the game, which, given the situation, is not a knock on them. The shooters cooled down a but in the second half and the Orange took longer on each possession.
The story of the game was the play of Trevor Cooney and Tyler Lydon. For whatever reason, Cooney seems to take his game to the next level against Notre Dame and Thursday night was no exception. The Guard had 15 points in the first half and finished the game with 22 points.
“I don’t know what it is [about Notre Dame],” Cooney said. “I get up the same for every game.”
Lydon was very strong at both ends of the floor and looked like the player Syracuse fans saw in Atlantis for the first time since Thanksgiving. He finished the game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and a pair of assists and steals.
The biggest takeaway from the game, however, has to be the way the Orange played defense. Virginia was able to be patient and pick apart the zone at times. Notre Dame struggled from opening tip to the final buzzer. The Irish finished the game with 11 turnovers and only scored 66 points.
“[Forcing turnovers] was just a matter of staying active and being aggressive,” Lydon said. “We were able to make some plays and get some stops.”
It does have to be said that the Irish were without their leading scorer, Demetrius Jackson, but the Orange did a tremendous job making the Irish uncomfortable. Coming into Thursday, the Irish shot almost 50% (49.9) from the field. Against Syracuse, Notre Dame shot under 42%. The Irish just never found a rhythm on offense and it allowed the game to be played the way Syracuse wanted it to be played.
“I think we were able to force them away from what they normally do,” Cooney said. “We were able to take away some shots that they normally get.”
As well as the Orange shot the ball during its 23-1 run in the first half, the defense stood even taller. During that stretch, the Irish turned the ball over four times and went 0-7 from the field. That run completely turned the game. From that point on, it was Syracuse’s game to lose and they did anything but that.
The Orange are back at it at the Dome on Saturday at noon against Georgia Tech, thanks to what Coach Boeheim called “stupid” scheduling. Cooney said he doesn’t expect a day off on Friday and that the team will be ready to face a “very good” Georgia Tech team.