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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
The Observer

Balanced scoring attack leads Irish to 20th win

Notre Dame rode a balanced scoring attack to a 79-69 victory over Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion Wednesday night. The Irish had four players score in double figures, led by graduate student forward Paul Atkinson, who had 20 points and 17 rebounds, including 8 on the offensive end. 

Senior forward Nate Laszewski — who was dealing with a stomach illness over the last few days — added 17, including 5 three pointers. Senior guard Cormac Ryan matched his season high with 16 points, and freshman guard Blake Wesley added 13 for the Irish. 

Notre Dame (20-8, 13-4 ACC) adapted well against Syracuse’s (15-13, 9-8 ACC) zone defense, racking up 19 assists as a team against just seven turnovers.

“I thought we were really efficient against the zone, and made some good decisions and believed we were going to win,” head coach Mike Brey said after the game. 

“One of the weaknesses of zone is offensive rebounding,” Atkinson said. “One of the things [the coaches] wanted me to do was crash the boards and try to get as many rebounds as possible. We took a lot of good shots, and I was just trying to get the ones we missed.”

“The book on us, a lot of times, is to come after us and physically guard us,” Brey said. “Now all of a sudden, you have skilled basketball players who don’t have anybody in their face for 50 or 60 possessions, that’s like vacation.” 

The Irish were strong defensively as well, holding the Orange to just 26% from beyond the arc. Syracuse is one of the best and most frequent three point shooting teams in the conference, making more than 37% of their attempts. 

“I thought our defense finally was able to guard a really skilled offensive group,” Brey said. 

However, the Irish often struggled to contain Jimmy and Buddy Boeheim — the sons of Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. The two combined for 47 points on the night. 

Atkinson was dominant in what was a back and forth first half. He finished the opening 20 minutes with 14 points and 11 rebounds, including a put-back slam which put the Irish back in front towards the end of the period. The Irish took a four point lead into the break. 

Senior guard Dane Goodwin opened the second half with a quick three pointer which put the Irish up seven, but Syracuse responded with a 9-0 run to retake the lead. After the under 16 timeout, Notre Dame made a run of their own, scoring 13 consecutive points from Ryan and Laszewski, while holding Syracuse scoreless for more than five minutes. 

However, the Orange battled back, steadily chipping away at the margin until they trailed by just two points with four minutes remaining. After Brey called a timeout, senior guard Prentiss Hubb drained a three pointer from nearly the logo to extend the lead. 

“[It was] maybe the lowest, worst percentage shot maybe in the history of Notre Dame basketball,” Brey joked. “But it’s in the air, and I’m kind of like, this is probably going in, because this guy has such good karma around him and believes.”

Hubb scored just six points but grabbed eight rebounds and dished out 10 assists.

“That was a clinic offensively,” Brey said. “He’s so fun to coach … what a winner, what a leader.”

Wesley followed with a layup, forcing Syracuse to take a timeout, but the Orange scored twice in quick succession, again making it a three point contest. Wesley and Atkinson were poised from the free throw line and sealed the game for the Irish. 

Notre Dame was 18 of 21 from the free throw line.

“It’s really mental that you believe,” Brey said of the ability to close out close contests. “This is a battle-tested group.”

The Irish remain one game back of the conference lead with three games remaining before the ACC tournament begins. The Irish host Georgia Tech on Saturday, in what will be the last home game before students depart for spring break.

“I just want to really finish it for them,” Brey said. “They have been great and have really helped us believe.” 

The game tips off at 5 p.m. Saturday and will be broadcast on the ACC Network.