V.J. Beachem had a career day, and Notre Dame made easy work of Syracuse on Saturday afternoon with an 84-66 victory.
The sellout crowd at Purcell Pavilion watched as the Irish — who improved to 17-3 overall and 6-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference — torched the Orange’s 2-3 zone, led by a career-high 30 points from the senior wing Beachem.
“V.J. was fabulous,” head coach Mike Brey said. “That one might have been brewing for a while, but he moved himself and we found him in different spots.”
No. 15 Notre Dame led by as many as 22 points on Saturday, shooting 49 percent from the field and making 11 of its 26 three-point attempts.
Syracuse (11-9, 3-4 ACC) struggled to keep up, shooting just 41.8 percent, including a 37.0-percent mark in the first half.
“Our defense was really the key today,” Brey said. “We had that field goal percentage under 40 for most of the game … we talked about that. I was pleased to see us really get back to defending.”
Junior point guard Matt Farrell added 15 points and nine assists. Junior forward Bonzie Colson battled first-half foul trouble, but still finished with his 12th double-double — 14 points and 14 rebounds — the most in the ACC.
Farrell, though, was especially crucial Saturday. He repeatedly used his speed to break down the Syracuse zone and find open shooters on the outside.
“He’s one of the most improved players I’ve seen come into this league,” longtime Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said of Farrell.
After its first six ACC games were determined by a combined 25 points, Notre Dame ran away with Saturday’s contest. Beachem sparked the Irish in the first half, scoring 10 straight points for the Irish during a run that put them up 26-14 with 7:48 left in the half.
Beachem finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting in the first half.
“Just being back in our building and playing in front of our home crowd just felt energized and felt good,” Beachem said. “All the guys were finding me and it didn’t hurt playing against the zone.
“The fact that they had to respect the drive really opens up the outside shot for me. I can’t say enough about my teammates, just continuing to find me and trusting me shooting the ball.”
Farrell said he knew it was Beachem’s day when he saw his teammate hit a tough floater in traffic. After that, Farrell made it a point of emphasis to get the ball to the streaky scorer, highlighted by a behind-the-back pass for a dunk.
“The two dunks for him got him going, so when he’s on like that, we’re really good,” Farrell said of Beachem. “It’s exciting to see that. I told him just to find space, especially when I get in there. Move around if you have to, because I’m going to be looking for you.”
Notre Dame outrebounded the Orange 39-28 and outscored them in the paint 26-20.
“That was a key. To defend and keep it to one-and-done, and we did,” Brey said. “Most of the night they had to take a challenged shot, and then they didn’t get many putbacks. Then you’ve got some breathing room on offense because you’re guarding continually like that.”
Sophomore forward Tyler Lydon led the Orange with 24 points and 10 rebounds.
Former Irish guard David Rivers was inducted into the program’s Ring of Honor at halftime.
Notre Dame returns to action Tuesday at home against Virginia. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. the ACC Network.
“A win’s a win, so we’re going to have a short memory about this one tomorrow because we have another really good team coming in on Tuesday,” Farrell said. “Whether we win by one or 20, it doesn’t matter. A win’s a win, especially in this league.”