March 8, 2007
NEW YORK (AP) -Notre Dame needed a huge second half and poise down the stretch to end Syracuse’s run as Big East champions.
Russell Carter scored 24 points to help No. 20 Notre Dame beat Syracuse 89-83 in the Big East tournament quarterfinals Thursday, ending the Orange’s try for a third straight championship.
“It took a 57-point second half for us to escape with a win,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We needed every point. We made big buckets, and I thought we made big free throws to win the game.”
Syracuse (22-10) had won the last two Big East titles and eight straight tournament games – one short of Connecticut’s record of nine set from 1998-2000.
Notre Dame (24-6), which finished fourth in the conference and received a first-round bye, won its sixth straight game. The Irish won 23 games in the regular season, their most since the 1985-86 season.
Notre Dame will play top-seeded Georgetown in Friday night’s semifinals. Roy Hibbert scored eight of his 14 points in No. 9 Georgetown’s opening 26-2 run, and the Hoyas held on for a 62-57 victory over ninth-seeded Villanova.
“Last time they whipped us,” Carter said. “To get a chance to play them again as coach said, they are the conference champs, and it’s a tough challenge and we have to be up for it.”
Leading 56-53 with 11:59 left in the game, Notre Dame went on a 9-2 run to take a 10-point lead. Carter had four points during the spurt.
Syracuse rallied to within four at 70-66 on Paul Harris’ layup. The Irish extended the lead to 11 on Falls’ free throws with 1:41 left. But the Orange refused to go away, cutting the lead to four three times – the last on Harris’ layup with 24.9 seconds left.
Notre Dame made its free throws down the stretch to secure the victory, going 22-for-26 from the free throw line in the game. Syracuse was 16-for-29 from the foul line, including missing six straight at one point in the second half.
“We can’t miss 13 free throws and expect to win,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Harris finished with a career-high 24 points and 15 rebounds. He scored 10 in the final 2:38 to keep Syracuse in the game.
“I just went to the boards,” Harris said. “I was just trying to make something happen.”
Eric Devendorf added 19 for the Orange.
“We’re 7-3 in our last 10 games, so I think we’re headed in the right direction,” Devendorf said. “Hopefully we can regroup, go back home and prepare for the tournament.”
Demetris Nichols, who scored 28 points in Syracuse’s opening-round victory over Connecticut, had 17 – all but one in the second half.
Terrence Roberts grabbed 20 rebounds, becoming the fifth player to record over 20 boards in the tournament. Dikembe Mutombo holds the record with 27.
“I thought Terrence was unbelievable on the boards,” Boeheim said. “I just don’t think we made the shots and free throws necessary to win the game.”
Colin Falls scored 23 points, including seven 3-pointers, and freshman Luke Harangody added 20 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish.
“I got a lot of clean looks,” Falls said.
Notre Dame beat Syracuse 103-91 on Jan. 30 at the Carrier Dome – setting the highest scoring mark for a visiting team.
The Irish continued to have an easy time scoring against Syracuse’s zone defense.
Notre Dame hit 13 3-pointers.
Trailing by three early in the second half, Notre Dame went on a 15-2 run to take a 51-42 lead. Syracuse answered with its own 9-2 spurt to close within two on Nichols’ 3-pointer.
Syracuse held a 34-32 halftime lead. Down 14-13, the Orange went on a 13-2 run. Harris scored seven straight points during the spurt to give Syracuse a 26-16 lead with 7:52 left.
Notre Dame responded with a 13-2 surge, including three 3-pointers by Carter, to retake the lead 29-28 with 3:58 left in the half.
This was the teams’ first meeting in the Big East tournament since March 5, 1997, when the Orange beat the Irish 84-66.