The Irish knew they had to push the tempo and score a lot of points to win... and they did.
Kyle McAlarney made a team record nine three-pointers to honor the 1978 Final Four team and keep the home winning streak going. Now only a contest against St. John's stands between the Irish and another perfect year at home.
Paul Harris had a big game for the Orange with 22 points, as the student section harrassed him all game (http://emekanadavandcorny.blogspot.com/2006_10_22_archive.html).
"Meet Syracuse’s Paul Harris. Talented. Had a few problems when he was younger. The incident involving his girlfriend in 2004 included a toaster, according to the police report."
Great shooting by the Irish helped overcome a huge rebounding advantage for Syracuse. Notre Dame outshot the Orange 55% to 40%, but were outrebounded 47-32. 21 extra chances off the offensive glass for Syracuse.
From the charity stripe, a surprisingly poor performance at only 67%. Normally solid Luke Harangody was 2-5.
The Irish took the lead for good two minutes into the game and were able to stay in control all game. Syracuse's lack of depth was obvious as Harris and Jonny Flynn played all game. More suits than warmups on the bench with Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins done for the year.
Tactically, a great game for the Irish as they had to change the attack a little. Syracuse stayed in the 2-3 zone pretty much all game, taking away some of Luke Harangody's effectiveness down low. Using an uptempo attack, Tory Jackson led Notre Dame up the floor quickly after every change of possession. Most of the time they still settled into the halfcourt offense, but this kept Syracuse on guard. In addition, the use of full-court pressure most of the first half made the Orange work from the opening tip.
Individually, Tory Jackson came back down to earth a little bit. Picking up two fouls early in the first half kept him off the floor for an extended period, but he still finished with 10 fouls and two assists to go with two rebounds and steals.
Zach Hillesland played only 24 minutes, but scored six points and had four rebounds. Added six assists doing a very good job originating the attack from the perimeter and moving the ball around to open shooters.
Rob Kurz had 15 points in his final game in front of the students. Added two rebounds and two assists. His final home game comes over spring break, so this was a partial farewell for him. As the only senior and captain, he has been a terrific leader for the team.
Luke Harangody with 14 points and rebounds. 16th double-double of the year. In the Memphis/Tennessee game last night, Dick Vitale said that Bamm-Bamm has the conference player of the year award wrapped up. I certainly hope he is correct, the guy has earned it.
Finally, Kyle McAlarney. 30 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds. 9-11 from three-point range taking advantage of that zone defense. All of his field goals came from beyond the arc. First 20+ point performance since the away game at Villanova. Before the contest, I felt confident that we would win as long as Kyle scored more than 20. Certainly came through in a big way this afternoon.
Off the bench, Ryan Ayers scored 10, including a tremendous dunk. 6 rebounds, 4 assists as he contributed more overall today. Not a great game shooting, but it is nice to see him play well without having those shots fall. He needs to be less one-deminsional. Luke Zeller had two points and two assists playing that high post position against the zone. Second game in a row without a three pointer, after hitting at least one in five straight contests. Jonathan Peoples did a solid job in the first half spelling Jackson. We needed to keep playing well and not have Tory pick up foul #3. Peoples knocked down a three and made all three shots he took.
For Syracuse, double-doubles for Onuaku and Harris. Kurz held freshman Donte Greene in check, only his fourth single digit scoring game of the year and lowest output all season. Flynn had a terrible shooting afternoon, but scored 17 by throwing up enough attempts.
Overall, we allowed too many rebounds for Syracuse. If we had shot our season averages (45% and 40% from 3), this is a blowout in the other direction. Thankfully, K-Mac led a 55% and 56% team performance.
Kept the turnover total low, a good sign. 21 assists to 13 turnovers is very good considering the pace.
Only four more games left, that's hard to believe. Louisville's two point win over Pitt means that Thursday's game could determine the regular season title (as long as Georgetown falls to the Cards or Marquette). Sunday's game at DePaul is usually pretty tough, but should win there. Then, only a home game against St. John's and travelling to South Florida before the BET.
Great win wraps up the last tough week of the season. We should be the underdogs visiting Louisville, so an upset there would be very nice. Three out of the last four wraps up a bye, but even two should be good enough. Let's not go there, though. Four straight wins could means a regular season title. That's the goal.