Syracuse knocked off Notre Dame 75-67 on Saturday despite trailing by 20 points in the second half. Here are five takeaways from the victory.
1. Buddy Buckets
As the Syracuse press was forcing Notre Dame turnovers and the zone was forcing contested shots, Buddy Boeheim could not miss. During the key 10 minute stretch that saw Syracuse erase a 20 point deficit and take the lead, Boeheim scored 17 points including four made three pointers. In total, Buddy scored a career high 29 points on 10-19 shooting and 6-10 from beyond the arc. He also added three steals. Buddy's poor shooting earlier in the season was well documented. Just five games ago he was shooting 27.5% from beyond the arc. Over the last five games, however, he is 16-32 (50%) and has brought his season percentage up to 33.9%. Syracuse is 4-1 in that stretch. He is heating up at the perfect time for Syracuse.
2. Richmond, Braswell Spark Comeback
Sometimes, the box score does not tell the whole story. Saturday's win over Notre Dame was evidence of that. Kadary Richmond had six points, three steals and one assists. Robert Braswell had three points on 1-4 shooting along with five rebounds. Both solid numbers, but nothing that jumps off the page. Especially compared to Buddy's as outlined above or Marek Dolezaj who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists. Yet their efforts were critical in Syracuse's comeback. Richmond's defense in the press and in the half court rattled Notre Dame's guards. His ability to get into the lane and either finish or kick the ball out led to open looks even if it was an extra pass that got the assist. Braswell's defense was superb. His rotations were nearly flawless. The same shots that were wide open for the Irish earlier in the game were now contested, or not even taken at all. It is no coincidence that Notre Dame started 10-18 from three point range, then went 2-13 after Richmond and Braswell ramped up their defensive efforts.
Notre Dame dominated the boards early. They held a 10 rebound advantage for portions of the first half, and led by six at intermission. Syracuse's record this season is directly tied to its efforts on the boards. Undefeated when outrebounding its opponent, just 1-6 when the opponent outrebounds Syracuse. At halftime, it looked it would be the latter. But Syracuse turned up its efforts on the glass and outrebounded Notre Dame 22-11 in the second half to win the battle overall by five. When Syracuse rebounds like that, it makes such a huge difference.
4. Dolezaj Does It
How good was Marek Dolezaj? He missed a couple of bunnies throughout the game, but largely was fantastic. He scored 18 points on just 10 shots, dished out four assists, grabbed six rebounds and helped shut down Juwan Durham after a hot start. Durham scored 10 points in the first 6:19 of the game as he was torching the Orange inside. Durham was scoreless the rest of the game and only attempted two more shots. A lot of that was because of the defensive efforts of Dolezaj. Marek was also really good offensively. Notre Dame simply did not have an answer for him. He drove, drew fouls and made a few critical buckets. It was a superb game for Syracuse's do-it-all forward.
5. Keeping Hope Alive
Comeback wins are always entertaining. This was Syracuse's first 20 point comeback since 2005. A tremendous effort and fun win. More importantly for this season, it keeps the hopes of an NCAA Tournament berth alive. A home loss against Notre Dame would have really hurt the resume. Yes Notre Dame is a good team and is playing much better basketball right now than earlier in the season. However, the committee does not care about that. What they do care about is Notre Dame has a NET ranking of 66 and a losing record. That loss would have all but destroyed Syracuse's chances. The win, though, pushed Syracuse's NET ranking from 50 to 46. The resume looks much better than it would have with a loss. Now Syracuse has an opportunity for a quad one win when they plat at Duke Monday night. Duke is fresh off of an upset of Virginia.