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Notre Dame Basketball

Orange rally, 2nd-half meltdown leave Irish blue

February 20, 2021
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A 20-point lead.

Momentum.

Everything, it seemed, favored Notre Dame Saturday at Syracuse with less than 17 minutes to play.

In fact, the Fighting Irish led 55-35 and had never even trailed.

This, however, was no regular collapse; monumental was the meltdown.

With the Orange forcing turnovers, hitting 3s and never missing in 11 trips to the free-throw line, they rallied past Notre Dame, 75-67.

The Irish (9-11, 6-7) once again failed to reach the .500 mark on the season – a mid-point they have not seen in more than two months; they were 2-2 after a Dec. 12 win at Kentucky.

Syracuse (13-6, 7-5) became the latest team just this season to erase a double-digit, second-half deficit and defeat the Irish. Notre Dame has squandered double-digit leads this season against Ohio State, Georgia Tech and now Syracuse in a trio of losses. In a loss at Virginia Tech, the Irish led by seven at the half and also commanded the lead in that contest longer than the Hokies despite them losing by 14 points.

“I don't know. You'd have to ask our leadership,” ND coach Mike Brey said of how to help his team mentally weather these instances. “It's on their ass to figure out how to bounce back and play in Louisville. I told you after the Georgia Tech game, I don't have any big rah-rah speeches this time of year. We'll try and get our guys in better spots against the press, because Louisville will press us; maybe the whole game.

“Either you're tough enough to attack it, or you're not. Great educational experience for young men. Either you're going to get over the hump or you're not.”

Notre Dame looked poised to secure its first three-game winning streak since it won four in a row last season from Jan. 29 through February 9, 2020; instead, it watched the Orange dominate on the boards in the second half with a 22-11 rebounding edge.

Buddy Boeheim ignited the Syracuse rally with a game-high 29 points that included a six-for-10 mark from distance. Marek Dolezaj added 18 as the only other Orange player in double figures.

Notre Dame led for more than 30 minutes in the game, and Syracuse did not take its first lead until Boeheim's 3 with less than eight minutes on the clock.

“I'm not pointing fingers. I always accept responsibility,” Brey said of the collapse. “I don't think we had the right guy taking the ball out of bounds a couple of times. Juwan (Durham) took it out and Dane (Goodwin) was supposed to take it out. And that's really on me, breakdown in communication on that because we knew the press was coming.

“But we also can be strong in traps and look up the floor and try and convert it.”

Eight of Notre Dame's 10 turnovers came across the final 20 minutes and spoiled Nate Laszewski's 11-point, 12-rebound double-double as well as Trey Wertz's gritty 17-point effort as he started in place of the limited Cormac Ryan.

Durham added 10 points – all in the game's opening 10 minutes – and Goodwin finished with 13.

After it 18-for-33 from the floor in the opening half, Notre Dame went just eight-for-25 from the field across the final 20 minutes.

“They were able to get out in transition a little more because we weren't making as many shots,” Wertz said. “You gotta give credit to them, Boeheim kind of caught fire and then they started doing a little elbow-isolations and that kind of started working. They were able to get some 50-50 balls. They started making shots.”

It's a quick turnaround for the Irish, who continue this three-game road swing Tuesday night at Louisville (7, ACC Network).

 
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