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Notre Dame Basketball

Syracuse Tops Notre Dame 88-85 in Offensive Thriller

February 24, 2024

Notre Dame’s (10-17, 5-11) trip to Syracuse (18-10, 9-8) was the 2023-24 season packed into 40 minutes of basketball on Saturday afternoon. 

The Irish were down by as many as 29 points in the first half and somehow had a chance to tie the game multiple times in the final minute, but came up short 88-85. 

Freshman point guard Markus Burton put on a show as he led all scorers with 28 points and eight assists, while classmate Braeden Shrewsberry continued his hot streak with all 18 of his points coming in the second half as he went 6-for-9 from deep. 

Syracuse was led by Judah Mintz’s 21 points and former Notre Dame guard JJ Starling added 14 points. 

“Proud of our guys for their effort in the second half, but we just didn't compete with the same fight in the first half,” said Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry. “Just the same carefulness we had been playing with - the 11 turnovers. They out-rebounded us in the first half and then our competitive spirit wasn't there. When it did show up, that’s who we are and that’s who we have to be. We have to play like that for 40 minutes.” 

Notre Dame turned the ball over 17 times on the day and it led to 31 points for Syracuse. It’s an alarming number when a team is down by 29, but even more frustrating in a three-point loss. The turnovers came from trying to make plays, inexperience and a lack of focus - all details that can’t happen on the road, especially in a hostile atmosphere. 

The first 20 minutes saw Notre Dame turn the ball over 11 times and it contributed to two 17-2 runs by the Orange. In fact, the Irish led 5-0 to start the game, but at the ten-minute mark, Syracuse was up 24-9. 

Seven minutes later, the Orange finished off its second major run to go up 44-16 with under four minutes to go in the first half and it appeared the game was all but over. 

Syracuse shot a blistering 61 percent in the first half, including 5-for-9 from three and 23 were points off turnovers. 

The Irish defense was something that hadn’t been an issue all year outside of the Marquette game, but Syracuse scored at will for most of the day. 49 points in the first half was just three points shy of Marquette’s 52 spot in December and the Orange scored 39 points in the final 20 minutes, which is still surprising for Notre Dame. 

Mintz and Starling were able to take advantage of Notre Dame’s guards for most of the game and got into the paint whenever and however they wanted. The Orange shot 53 percent for the game and went 20-of-33 on shots considered layup attempts.

That said, Notre Dame once again simply dug a hole they couldn’t quite climb out of and that’s been the story for most of the losses this year. Shrewsberry’s team isn’t a team that gets blown out often, but they also found themselves trailing by double digits and having to fight in the second half to close. Notre Dame isn’t immune to wearing down and cutting into 29-point deficits takes energy. 

Now, the Irish didn’t necessarily run out of gas on Saturday, but trailing for over 36 minutes of game time takes a toll, especially with how the first half went. 

It’s strange to write about Notre Dame’s offense given the Irish had 29 points at halftime. The 56-point explosion in the second half was something I’m not sure anyone saw coming, including Micah Shrewsberry. 

In fact, Notre Dame has been held to less than 56 points for an entire game six times this season. 

Notre Dame shot 62 percent for the game and an incredible 12-for-21 from three. Shrewsberry’s six treys led the way for the Irish, but Burton and Julian Roper II also hit two from deep. Roper’s second three was a huge one as it pulled Notre Dame to 86-83 with 1:07 to play. 

The second half was an example of how far this team has come since November. The fight Shrewsberry has built in this team was on full display as his team shot 67 percent from the field while holding Syracuse to just 29 percent in the second half. 

Tae Davis also showed up in the second half for the Irish as he hit his fifth three of the year, but his work came on the block or at the rim. Davis scored nine of his 12 points in the second half and he also tied for the team-high in rebounds with Roper with seven. 

Every player who took a shot on Saturday shot over 50 percent and that will serve as a building block as they know it can be done. Sure, Syracuse isn’t a defensive powerhouse, but Notre Dame needs confidence and doing simple things like score will only help grow belief. 

Notre Dame is going to feel sick about this one for a minute. It was a winnable game and one that is directly traced back to being careless with the basketball. If you would have said Notre Dame shot 62 percent for the game and scored 85 points, I think most folks would have imagined the Irish winning by 15 points, so a loss is a tough pill to take despite the impressive second half. 

The defensive lapses in the first half haven’t been there for most of the year and that shouldn’t be a concern moving forward. That said, Notre Dame will always have some issues with teams with bigger and skilled guards as Burton and Shrewsberry are always going to be smaller guards. There are matchup issues from an athleticism and size standpoint, but Notre Dame has been able to cover those up for most of the year. 

It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame can use the second half performance on offense moving forward. There are just four games left and North Carolina, Wake Forest and Clemson are three of the top four scoring teams in the ACC, so the Irish will need to find ways to score. There should be some added confidence heading into the final stretch. 

Notre Dame will host Wake Forest (17-9, 9-6) on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion. Tip is set for 9:00 PM ET.

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