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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, January 07, 2018 1:00 am

Notre Dame 51 Syracuse 49

Late steal helps Irish rally past Syracuse

JOHN KEKIS | Associated Press

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey had a plan for Syracuse and it worked – barely.

T.J. Gibbs scored 18 points, and Martinas Geben's steal set up Rex Pflueger's decisive layup with 2.6 seconds left as the undermanned Irish rallied to beat the Orange 51-49 on Saturday for their fifth straight victory.

The Irish (13-3, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) played without senior captains Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell, and for the second straight game the rest of the team stepped up. Even without Colson, one of the best rebounders in the nation, Notre Dame beat Syracuse on the boards 42-27 and scored 15 points off the Orange's 14 turnovers, none bigger than the last basket.

“It just speaks to the tenacity as a team,” said Pflueger, whose winning basket came off his offensive rebound of a Gibbs miss. “I think collectively we did a great job and just coming in together and just playing our game. Our shots weren't falling, but we just played our butts off on the defensive end and just rebounded it.”

Colson had surgery Thursday for a broken left foot and is expected to miss eight weeks, and Farrell sprained his left ankle too badly Wednesday night against North Carolina State to play against the Orange.

“I don't care who they have,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “They have a good team. I'm just concerned with who's here. They've got players and they play. Our offense is the problem. This was the first game someone got real physical on the boards against us and we could not rebound.”

Syracuse (12-4, 1-2 ACC) led nearly the entire game before falling behind late, and Tyus Battle had just tied the game for the Orange with a 3-pointer with 48 seconds left. A turnover by Geben gave Syracuse a great shot to win it, but Battle, trying to set up a final shot, lost the ball back to Geben to set up the winning basket. Frank Howard's desperation heave at the buzzer for the Orange was well short.

“We've got to make a decision as a team,” Howard said. “We don't have that chip on our shoulder. We're going to lose if we play like that.”