Let’s take you down the timeline that wasn’t first. Last season, Syracuse beat Florida State on the road in its first conference game in early December. A month and a half later, the weekend leading into MLK Day, the Seminoles upended the Orange inside the Dome. It looked for a moment like we might get deja vu tonight. Syracuse beat Notre Dame in South Bend in early December, but the Irish held a lead as large as 12 in the second half tonight. Alas, it did not end that way. SU pulled off perhaps its most gutsy win of the season, upending ND 78-73.
The first half was back and forth, but the overarching theme was Notre Dame shredding Syracuse with three-point shooting. The Irish entered the locker room with a 40-36 lead, in no small part thanks to a 9-17 shooting display from beyond the arc.
That said, similarly to the showdown in South Bend, Notre Dame began to miss open shots as the second half wound down. Once the Irish lead reached its 12-point peak, Syracuse put its foot on the gas pedal. Justin Taylor hit a jumper, Maliq Brown hit an and-1, the crowd got loud (might have been the best one of the season so far), the Orange hit critical free throws down the stretch, and that was enough to send Notre Dame packing.
How about Chris Bell? Jim Boeheim has talked multiple times about how we needed to wait for the California native to get going. Can we say it was worth the wait?
17 points on 5-8 shooting from beyond the arc (and 3 rebounds). It’s certainly not realistic to expect Bell to have performances like this every night going forward, but this has to be a confidence booster. If we see more energy from Bell on the glass and consistent double figures, look out ACC.
The fact that Syracuse won this game when its big three of Joe, Judah, and Jesse weren’t exactly world-beaters is awesome. Girard has his worst game in a long time, scoring just 7 points on 2-9 shooting. Edwards 13 points and 15 rebounds, but remember he had 22 in SU’s first meeting with ND. And Mintz had 14, but 8 of those points came from the charity stripe (not to say that’s bad). But when someone like Maliq Brown can shine again by putting up 15 points when the highlight-reel players aren’t making highlight-reel plays, it shows depth. And by golly is it a good sign.
If there’s one negative other than the three-point shooting, it has to be Benny Williams’ playing time. Him only getting 11 minutes cannot be good for his confidence. When he knocked down a three early, there was reason for excitement, but he exited the game with 17 minutes left in regulation and never reentered. Let’s hope he figures it out soon.
To wrap up our thoughts about this contest, let’s go to something athletes are preached way before they get to college. It’s hard to beat a team twice in a season, especially if it’s a conference foe. A win like this, even though it isn’t against an elite Notre Dame team, is a confidence booster. Now that you’ve beaten a conference foe twice, who says it can’t happen with Boston College or Virginia Tech, two teams Syracuse has already beaten, or Georgia Tech who SU still has to play twice? It’s hard to beat a team twice in a season, but as exhibited tonight, very possible.
Now, it’s on to Miami. The Orange held a 44-26 lead in BOTH contests against the Hurricanes last year. But, as the 2021-22 Syracuse team so often did, it blew the game not once, but twice. That said, both times SU was coming in off a loss. That’s not the case this year after a 78-73 win over Notre Dame on Saturday night. The Orange beat the Irish twice in the same season for the first time since 2004-05.