Observations: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Basketball Squanders 20-Point Second-Half Lead At Syracuse In 75-67 Loss
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Observations: Notre Dame Squanders 20-Point Second-Half Lead At Syracuse

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Notre Dame was 20 minutes from a resounding win and reaching .500 this season.

Instead, the Irish left Central New York Saturday afternoon with a stunning and stinging loss that featured a blown 20-point second-half lead. Notre Dame lost at Syracuse 75-67 Saturday, dropping its record to 9-11 and 6-8 in the ACC. Syracuse, meanwhile, improved to 13-6 and 7-5.

Here are some observations from the game.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball junior guard Dane Goodwin
Dane Goodwin and Notre Dame scored just 21 second-half points in a 75-67 loss. (ACC)

• In terms of offense, that was a near-identical script to a Dec. 12 game at Kentucky: Score 46 points in the first half in a thorough dissection…then struggle with pressure, stop attacking and start making poor decisions. The Irish shot 32 percent, committed eight turnovers and had only seven assists in the second half. After taking a 55-35 lead with 16:49 left in the game, they scored eight points in the next 13:52 and 12 the rest of the way.

Notre Dame won that game at Kentucky because it played enough defense and Kentucky couldn’t make shots. Syracuse and Buddy Boeheim, though, are a fearless group that is a threat to put up points even if the season three-point percentages aren’t great. Notre Dame closed out slow or with a hand down and got caught on screens too often when defending him. Boeheim had 20 points in the second half and 29 in total, with six three-pointers.

• It’s hard to draw up a starker contrast in offense. It’s alarming when this is not the first time a meltdown has happened from an upperclassman-heavy team that should be beyond such stretches of futility. It’s surely frustrating for all involved when the same game contains evidence Notre Dame is better than this.

The first half was a zone-beating clinic. Notre Dame had Syracuse constantly rotating, as if it were a blender, because of its guards’ fast and sound decision-making. They had 15 assists on 18 field goals. It felt like consequential deflections and traps were at a minimum because the ball rarely stuck in one place, as evidenced by only two turnovers.

• In addition to pulling out some full-court pressure, Syracuse tightened up the leaks in the back of its zone that had allowed Notre Dame center Juwan Durham to jump-start the early lead. In the game’s first seven minutes, Durham had 10 points, two assists and a steal, with four dunks. He didn’t score after that.

• Point guard Prentiss Hubb’s decision-making with the ball was largely fine, with 10 assists to three turnovers, but Notre Dame’s second-half offense frequently turned into him being stuck with the ball. He was 3 of 12 from the floor and 2 of 11 from three. When he had open shots, they rarely went down.

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• One possession that ought to really stick in Notre Dame’s craw: up 11 with 11:28 left, forward Nik Djogo’s two-on-one transition layup rolled off the rim, and guard Dane Goodwin missed a wide-open three-pointer following a kick-out pass after Djogo grabbed his own miss. It was one of a few examples of Notre Dame breaking some pressure and backcourt traps but not being able to score with the numbers advantage.

• By unofficial count, Notre Dame had 12 stop-scores in the first half and three in the second.

• Notre Dame attempted only four free throws, and none were in the second half.

• An unfortunate way for Notre Dame to waste one of Trey Wertz’s better ACC games. The junior guard had 17 points, was 5 of 8 on three-pointers and had three assists.

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