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Saturday, Jan 06, 2018 at 7:41 pm

Duval Honored, But Syracuse Falls Late to Notre Dame

For 30 seconds, Tyus Battle was the hero.  The star sophomore drilled a three-pointer with 49 seconds left to tie the game at 49.

On the following Notre Dame possession, Battle stole the ball from senior forward Martinas Geben. With ten seconds left in regulation, Battle dribbled over a pick before losing the ball, as Geben stole it right back and fired an outlet pass for a racing T.J. Gibbs. Gibbs missed a contested layup, but Rex Pflueger finished a wide open put-back with 2.6 seconds left to seal Syracuse’s fate. Battle stood underneath the basket, frozen with his hands over his head, and his mouth wide open in disbelief.

The rest of the Carrier Dome expressed the same reaction as Syracuse (12-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) dropped its second-straight ACC game in the last minute, this time falling at home to Notre Dame (13-3, 3-0) on Saturday 51-49.

After the game, Tyus Battle couldn’t raise his head. He was speechless. After splashing a clutch three-pointer and scoring nearly half of Syracuse’s points, the sophomore guard coughed up the ball when his team needed him most.

“It hurts,” Battle said.  “But you’ve just got to move on from it. A lot more basketball to play.”

For head coach Jim Boeheim, this was the first physical test of the year for his team, and the Orange failed.

“This was the first game that somebody really got physical on the boards against us and we could not rebound,” Boeheim said, as Notre Dame outrebounded SU 42-27.  “We’re not a good rebounding team, that was a myth…complete myth.”

Notre Dame was without its two leading scorers, Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, due to injuries.  For Boeheim, that is no excuse for his team’s performance.

“I don’t care who they have, they have a good team,” Boeheim said. “I’m just concerned with who’s here.  They’ve got good players, and they played.”

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was on the opposite side of the spectrum when it came to how big a win this was for his team without his two stars.

“I’ve been at Notre Dame 18 years.  I’ve had a lot of great wins.  This is as good a win, given I’ve got Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell sitting back in their apartment in South Bend, Indiana.  I couldn’t be prouder of a group” said Brey, who will be without Colson for two months due to surgery on a broken foot.  “We have not been known as a big time rebounding program…I’m kind of digging this defending and rebounding kind of thing.”

It wasn’t all bad inside the Carrier Dome on Saturday, as Dennis Duval had his number 22 retired at halftime.  Duval left Syracuse as the second leading scorer in program history behind Dave Bing.

For Duval, who is now a retired Syracuse police chief, this was an exciting day.

“For me, today was obviously a very humbling and different day for me, a really appreciative day for this ceremony and being recognized by the university in this fashion,” said an emotional Duval, who scored 1,504 points in his Syracuse career.  “This is my home.  It’s about giving back, that’s the bottom-line.”

After struggling to score against the Fighting Irish, Syracuse must travel to Virginia on Tuesday where scoring won’t get any easier. The Cavaliers rank first in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 52.7 points per game.

Syracuse on the other hand, goes into John Paul Jones arena ranked outside the top-250 in points per game, something that Boeheim says the Orange will struggle with all season.