February 17, 1999
By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – For once, the Carrier Dome seemed more like home for No. 21 Syracuse.
Plagued by a sudden inability to win regularly inside the big artificial bubble and struggling for their postseason life, the Orangemen got 22 points, a career-high 16 rebounds and six blocks from Etan Thomas and beat Notre Dame 71-65 Wednesday night.
It was a crucial win for Syracuse (18-8, 9-7 Big East), which has a 3-5 conference record in the Carrier Dome this season and had lost its previous three Big East games there.
“We don’t give up,” said Thomas, who has 110 blocked shots this season. “There’s still a long way to go. We might be down and people might count us out, but we keep fighting and we keep clawing all the way through.”
Syracuse, which struggled to a 31-28 halftime lead, took charge behind Thomas at the start of the second half.
Thomas, who scored 10 points to key a 20-6 run, began the surge with two free throws and a dunk and finished it with a three-point play and a lay-in, giving the Orangemen a 51-34 lead with 11:24 remaining. Notre Dame was just 2-for-13 from the field while Syracuse pulled away.
“They were really aggressive defensively,” Notre Dame coach John MacLeod said. “They pushed us all over the place.”
Especially under the boards. Syracuse outrebounded the Irish (12-14, 6-9) 41-33, 17-9 at the offensive end. But it was turnovers – Notre Dame had 22 – and an early injury to starting point guard Martin Inglesby that hurt the most. Inglesby played only one minute and did not score.
“In the second half we had four straight turnovers, and I don’t think we had another turnover the rest of the way,” MacLeod said. “We finally got settled down after 23 or 24 minutes, but they did a great job defensively, pressured us, and made us go a lot faster than we wanted to.”
Still, the Irish refused to cave in. Troy Murphy, who had the worst game of his freshman season against Syracuse in late December, missing all 11 of his shots from the field and scoring only five points, came back in this one with 14 points, five below his average.
Murphy scored six points to key a 13-2 run that cut Syracuse’s lead to 53-47 with 6:40 left and the game suddenly looked eerily familiar to the Orangemen.
“We knew when they had big leads they kind of became lackadaisical,” said Murphy, who had nine rebounds. “We didn’t want to get into that situation, but we knew if we did we would be able to come back.”
The comeback was short-lived. A short jumper in the lane by Thomas, a basket by Ryan Blackwell and a tip-in by Damone Brown gave the Orangemen a double-digit lead, and that was too much for the Irish to overcome.
Notre Dame did get two 3-pointers from David Graves and one each from Dennis Carroll and Todd Palmer in the final minute to make it close.
“Our defense was good until the end, when they just threw in some incredible shots,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “Fortunately, it didn’t matter.”
Graves led Notre Dame with 16 points and Antoni Wyche had 14. Allen Griffin scored 15 points and Blackwell added 13 for Syracuse.