Jan. 6, 2018
By Robby Hamman
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — Notre Dame (13-3, 3-0 ACC) turned in one of the grittiest performances of the college basketball season on Saturday afternoon inside the Carrier Dome, defeating hosts Syracuse (12-4, 1-2 ACC) by a final score of 51-49. Junior Rex Pflueger played the role of the hero, scoring a putback layup at the rim with two seconds left in the game to give the Irish the victory.
The shorthanded Notre Dame squad was led in scoring by T.J. Gibbs, who scored a team-high 18 points to push the Irish past the Orange. Pflueger added 12 points and Martinas Geben finished with seven in the road win. The victory was Notre Dame’s first inside the Carrier Dome since the 2007 season.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Playing without its top two scorers in ACC Preseason Player of the Year Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, Notre Dame struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the first frame. The Irish managed to score just 19 points, however, the defense held Syracuse in check and the Irish trailed by just nine at the halftime break.
The Irish came out of the intermission locked in and opened the second stanza on an 8-0 run to immediately cut the deficit to one at 28-27 with over 17 minutes to play. The two sides traded baskets for the next 15 minutes of action, as the score moved to 44-43 in favor of Syracuse with under three minutes to go.
Notre Dame then took its first lead since the 18-minute mark of the first half when Gibbs stepped up and calmly knocked in two free throws with 2:25 on the clock to go on top 45-44. Elijah Burns hit two free throws with just under a minute left to increase the lead to three at 49-46 but the Orange responded with a make from three-point range to tie it at 49-49, setting up the frantic finish from Pflueger.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Gibbs kept the Irish in the game with his play on the offensive end in the first half. The sophomore scored 14 of Notre Dame’s 19 points in the first frame to keep the Irish within reach. Gibbs finished with a team-high 18 points. The sophomore also added four rebounds and four assists in the victory.
NOTRE DAME STAT OF THE NIGHT
The Irish defense completely locked down the Orange in the second stanza, holding the hosts to 21 points. Notre Dame allowed Syracuse to shoot just 8-of-26 from the floor in the final minutes of play. The 49 points allowed in the game are the fewest the Irish have given up in an ACC game in program history.
NOTES OF THE GAME
- The Irish are now 2-3 against Syracuse in ACC matchups and have won each of the last two contests.
- Notre Dame improves to 3-0 in ACC play and has now won its first three league games for the second consecutive year.
- The win is Notre Dame’s first in the Carrier Dome in ACC play.
- The Irish outrebounded the Orange 42-27 to improve to 12-0 when grabbing more rebounds than the opposition.
- Geben recorded a career-high 14 rebounds in the win.
- For the seventh time this season and 10th in his career, Pflueger finished with 10-plus points, scoring 12 against Syracuse.
- D.J. Harvey pulled down a career-high nine rebounds on Saturday.
- Austin Torres made his first start of the season and second of his career at Syracuse.
The Irish head south to take on Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 10. The matchup with the Yellow Jackets will be the second of the season, as the Irish won the first meeting by a score of 68-59 in Purcell Pavilion. The game is set to air on ESPNU.
— ND —
Robby Hamman joined Fighting Irish Media as athletics communications assistant director in September 2016, coordinating efforts for the volleyball and men’s lacrosse program. Hamman is a 2010 graduate of Bethel College, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in sport management and business administration, and earned his master’s degree in business administration from Defiance College in 2013.