Feb. 4, 2013
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -
Syracuse's Jim Boeheim is just like any coach - lose a couple of conference games and it's time to start looking for those worry beads.
No need to search anymore.
C.J. Fair had 18 points and 10 rebounds, freshman Jerami Grant scored a season-high 14 points, and No. 9 Syracuse beat No. 25 Notre Dame 63-47 on Monday night to snap a two-game losing streak that had dropped the Orange three spots in the rankings.
"This was a big win," Boeheim said. "Obviously, Notre Dame beat us last year. When you lose two games in a row in this league, you get nervous. Everybody does. This is a real good bounce-back win."
Syracuse (19-3, 7-2 Big East), which was coming off consecutive road losses against Villanova and Pittsburgh, has only three conference losses in its last 32 Big East games and has won a school-record 36 straight games at home, the longest active streak in Division I. Notre Dame (18-5, 6-4) had won three straight.
It was the first meeting between the teams since the Irish handed Syracuse its only conference loss last season, 67-58 at Purcell Pavilion last January. The Orange, unbeaten at the time and ranked No. 1, were missing shot-blocking, 7-foot center Fab Melo in that game because of an academic issue, and on Monday night senior James Southerland, the team's most consistent outside threat and third-leading scorer, missed his sixth straight game because of an eligibility matter related to academics.
Gone, too, from the Orange lineup was 6-foot-9, 288-pound freshman forward Dajuan Coleman, out for a month after knee surgery.
On this night, it didn't matter as the Syracuse defense clamped down behind its front line of Fair, Jerami Grant and Rakeem Christmas, who combined for 44 points, six blocks, and 21 rebounds. They also teamed to help limit the touches of Notre Dame big man Jack Cooley in the middle and the Orange's perimeter defenders held their own against the Irish sharpshooters.
The 6-foot-9, 246-pound Cooley, a major force as the Irish outrebounded the Orange by 13 in last year's game, finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, his 15th double-double of the season.
Notre Dame finished 6 of 20 on 3-pointers, shot 34.6 percent (18 of 52) for the game, and was outrebounded 32-28. The Irish also matched their season low for points. They also were held to 47 in a home loss two weeks ago to Georgetown.
"We've got to make some more of those shots to escape here," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "When we've had success against them, we've made more 3s. But that's not necessarily us missing. They have such length because their guards are so big this year. They come out and close out. It's a rough shot.
"We fought, we battled, we tried. But we needed to get into a better scoring rhythm. It was hard against them tonight because of the way they defended."
Christmas had 12 points and four blocks and Michael Carter-Williams had five points, eight assists and three steals for Syracuse.
Jerian Grant, Jerami's brother, finished with 15 points to lead the Irish. The game was the first in college between the Grant brothers and was just the second start for Jerami, who was 6 for 8 from the floor and made both free throws he attempted in playing every minute in place of Southerland.
"Teams really don't know what I can do because I haven't been playing a lot," said Jerami, who swished a pair of midrange jumpers in the first four minutes. "He (brother Jerian) definitely should know what to expect, but I've been working hard since I've been here. He hasn't really seen me play.
"I got a lot of confidence out there with my first two shots. I felt like I played off that energy."
The Irish fell behind 41-28 midway through the second half as the Orange put together a 13-4 spurt spanning halftime to assume control.
Syracuse stretched its 30-24 halftime lead back to 10 in the opening minutes of the second. Christmas hit a foul-line jumper at the shot-clock buzzer after corraling the rebound of a miss by Carter-Williams and Fair followed with a dunk off a steal by Carter-Williams.
Christmas then converted a follow dunk off a miss by Brandon Triche, Trevor Cooney sank a 3 from the wing, and Christmas hit again off the glass to boost the lead to 43-28 at 11:05.
Cameron Biedscheid stopped the Syracuse surge with a 3 from the left corner and Jerian Grant converted a three-point play to move the Irish back within 43-34 with 10 minutes left.
Syracuse stretched it back to 48-35 on a 3 by Carter-Williams with 6:02 left and the Irish were finished.
"Defense is going to take us far," Christmas said after his strongest game of the season. "If we play defense, we'll win games even if our offense isn't there."
Syracuse entered the game limiting opponents to 32.3 percent shooting on 3-pointers while Notre Dame was hitting 39.6 percent from behind the arc. Biedscheid finished 1 of 8 from behind the arc.
Notre Dame guards Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins had nine assists and eight turnovers between them. Not a good omen for a team that entered the game ranked first nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.74).