Any concerns that the Irish would suffer a letdown after the tough loss to Florida State Wednesday were alleviated early as ND took control of the game in the first half and never looked back.
A career-best 30 points from V.J. Beachem and another strong outing from Matt Farrell propelled the Irish. Beachem was on from three-point distance and was the recipient of a few outstanding passes from Farrell. The junior point guard was able to find creases and exploit the Syracuse zone.
Beachem’s breakout performance was something Irish fans had been waiting for since last March. The senior has had some strong performances, but lacked any consistency. His ability to hit shots and aggressively drive to the rim makes him a headache for opposing defenses. When Beachem is playing at the level he did Saturday, there is no stopping Notre Dame’s offense.
– For as lauded as the Syracuse zone is (and I buy into the hype every year), the fact is a zone has a hard time defending a great shooting team like the Irish. It helps when Farrell is able to facilitate by penetrating the 2-3, but when ND is hot, shooting over the zone plays right into their hands.
– Despite being saddled with two fouls early, Bonzie Colson was still able to record his ACC-leading 12th double-double. In year’s past, Colson would have let frustration effect his game, but the junior showed the maturity you want to see from a leader and finished the game with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
– The Irish out-rebounded Syracuse 39-28. A lot of that can be attributed to the difficulty of rebounding in a zone, but it also speaks to the team rebounding the Irish have employed through much of the season.
– Although they may not stand out on the stat sheet, Martin Geben and Austin Torres continue to be a force in the front court. The duo consistently does the dirty work and are a force on the defensive end.
– The phrase of the day was “exorcising (the Syracuse) demons.” And while the win was impressive and the first one vs. the Orange since 2012, this is far from a typical Syracuse team. The ‘Cuse will be bound for the NIT at season’s end, and with the exception of Lydon, Syracuse seemed lazy on the defensive end and lethargic offensively.
– David Rivers was inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime of Saturday’s game and, despite the music queuing him off stage, Rivers gave a spectacular speech.
– Brey has stated his defensive goal is to keep opponents under 40% from the field. While the Orange managed to shoot just above that standard Saturday, ND’s improvement on the defensive end is undeniable. The Irish have the bodies and athleticism to go man, but also have the length and fundamentals to make their zone very effective. As mentioned before, what they lack in size, they make up for with hustle and an understanding of team rebounding.
– A great development for the Irish is that the opposition does not know who to key in on ahead of time. One night it it’s T.J. Gibbs, the next it’s Steve Vasturia, and the next it’s V.J. Beachem as the main scoring threat. The diversity of attack and who is doing the attacking makes the Irish offense as potent as any in the country.
– With that being said, Matt Ryan is due for a breakout game. The Irish are a bit clogged on the wings, so Ryan’s playing time has been diminished, but the sophomore is the best pure shooter on the team and wouldn’t surprise me to see him go for 15+ points in the next few games.
– Although the Irish fell to Florida State on Wednesday, I don’t expect the Irish to fall when the AP poll is released Monday. I think the Seminoles are the best team in the country and The Otter Room invites anyone attending the FSU game in South Bend to join The Otter Room at Mulligans for festive pregame drinking. Most of your favorite writers will be there to share a beer and sign autographs.
– While the Irish exorcised one demon Saturday, another awaits Tuesday in the form of Virginia. The Cavaliers have had ND’s number since the Irish joined the league and with the exception of the 2015 game (the only one contested in South Bend), the games have not been close.
Stay tuned to The Otter Room Monday for a complete preview of the Notre Dame-Virginia matchup