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Saturday, Jan 04, 2020 at 10:14 pm

SU men’s basketball can’t edge out Notre Dame in 88-87 loss

By Toni Bianco

CitrusTV Men’s Basketball Reporter

Two consecutive offensive rebounds from Notre Dame’s John Mooney and a put-back gave the Irish a two-point advantage with 36 seconds remaining. A missed Syracuse layup and controversial foul call led to two made free throws from Prentiss Hubb. It would take two missed Orange three pointers before Joe Girard III knocked one down at the buzzer, but it wouldn’t be enough.

Conference action resumed for the Orange inside the Dome on Saturday afternoon, and Syracuse (8-6, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) couldn’t come out on top of a three-point battle against Notre Dame (10-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast). The 88-87 loss was the closest final score of SU’s season, and it was back-and-forth throughout the game.

“Both teams played great with great offense and big shots,” said Syracuse Head Coach Jim Boeheim. “We made the big shot at the end that we had to make. We couldn’t get a stop and we played just about as well, offensively, as we can. But you have to get stops to win and we didn’t do that.”

One of the highlights of this match up was the electric battle between Notre Dame’s Hubb and SU’s Girard. With under six minutes to play, John Mooney made a layup. Following the bucket, Girard ended up on the floor and Hubb stepped over him and straddled him, resulting in a taunting technical.

“He [Hubb] did deserve the technical,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey. “One thing I do love about him is he’s a fighter and fearless, and he showed that. The technical was a little bit of his fearlessness going overboard, but I don’t ever want to curb it because he made big shots and wanted to make big shots for his first time playing in this building. Girard got going, and the shots Boeheim made were amazing, too.”

What followed was a 10 point barrage from JGIII. The CNY native knocked down both free throws and then secured the next eight points for SU. Hubb was guarding Girard and doing all he could to harass him, but the freshman  continued to drill jumpers. The two guards were going back and forth, firing each other up. Hubb knocked down six three pointers on his way to 22 points, 9 assists, while Girard notched 20 points of his own during the contest.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m just being competitive,” said Girard regarding his battle with Hubb. “When someone usually challenges me or any competitor, usually you step your game up a little bit. That’s what happened.”

The only player better from behind the arc than Hubb was Buddy Boeheim. The sophomore tied his career-high for three-point field goals, knocking down seven threes. Boeheim’s seventh three-ball of the night evened the game at 67 with just under seven minutes remaining.

Ultimately, John Mooney’s domination down low gave Notre Dame the edge down the stretch. The forward tallied a game-high 28 points and 14 rebounds, with 19 of those points coming in the second half. SU did a solid job containing him on in the first half, but Mooney killed the Orange in the paint and on the boards after the halftime break. SU just couldn’t contest the strength of John Mooney.

“He’s just so physical down low,” said Jim Boeheim. “We just couldn’t deal with him down there. We’ve had the same problem all year, our offense just is better now so we can so we can hang in. But we can’t do anything down there with that guy. We just don’t have anybody.”

Coach Boeheim was impressed with freshman Quincey Guerrier’s performance down low, but stressed that he needs Bourama Sidibe to step up and be a bigger presence in the paint if Syracuse is going to compete.

The Orange continue ACC action on Tuesday when they host Virginia Tech at nine pm.

anbianco@syr.edu | @tonibianco_