SOUTH BEND – Getting potent production across the board from his Big Three of Elijah Hughes, Oshae Brissett and Tyus Battle – like he got Saturday – is going to prove a necessity more than a luxury this season, according to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.
Hughes, a redshirt junior guard, erupted for career highs of 22 points and 10 rebounds as the Orange dominated down the stretch during their 72-62 victory over Notre Dame.
Brissett, a sophomore, added 19 points and 11 boards, while Battle, a junior, scored 17 points as Syracuse (10-4, 1-0) won its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
“They have to show up,” Boeheim said of the trio. “If they don't show up, we aren't going to win. We depend on those guys. I think Frank (Howard) can score, too. He's not there yet, but I'm hopeful. He averaged 15 points a game last year.”
Hughes, who has scored at least 15 points in each of his last seven outings, drained 6 of 13 3-point shots. His previous high for made 3s was four.
T.J. Gibbs netted 18 points, dished five assists and sank a career-best six 3-pointers in 13 tries for the Irish (10-5, 0-2).
John Mooney chipped in his seventh double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Notre Dame, though, virtually disappeared with game on the line.
The Orange, unfazed by playing just their second true road game of the season, outscored Notre Dame 10-1 late to turn a 60-58 lead at 6:19 to go into a 70-59 spread with under one minute remaining.
The Irish made just one of their final 11 shots.
“I thought the difference again, a little bit like (Tuesday's 81-66 loss at Virginia Tech), was veteran players – men on the other team – made kind of men plays, and we were a little young in some spots trying to figure it out,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
“The league is very unforgiving,” Brey said, “as I told them, and as we try to grow.”
Down 60-58, the Irish had a chance to tie the game with 5:59 remaining, but freshman Nate Laszewski missed the front end of a one-and-one.
Hughes answered with a left-wing 3-pointer to start Syracuse's 10-1 spurt.
“When they closed it to two, we had guys step up,” Boeheim said. “Elijah stepped up, Oshae stepped up, and I thought Bourama (Sidibe) made two of the biggest plays of the game down there, drawing the charge, getting a blocked shot, then a couple rebounds.”
A delighted Brey confirmed after the game that injured senior captain Rex Pflueger intends to use a medical redshirt to gain another year of eligibility next season with the Irish.
“I'm thrilled,” Brey said. “I was sitting at dinner last night with the team after he and I talked, and I looked over and (realized), 'My God, the whole team comes back now.' I don't know if that happens in college basketball, your whole team coming back. Now, guys can always decide to transfer, go pro or whatever, but I think there's a pretty good chance our whole team will come back.”
Pflueger, Notre Dame's only scholarship senior, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December.
His mom, Rebecca, is battling brain cancer, according to Brey.
“Let's put all the basketball aside,” Brey added of Pflueger's decision. “(His mom's) in the fight of her life with brain cancer.”