SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) – T.J. Gibbs scored 18 points and Martinas Geben’s steal set up Rex Pflueger’s decisive layup with 2.6 seconds left as Notre Dame rallied to beat Syracuse 51-49 on Saturday, its fifth straight victory.
Tyus Battle had just tied the game for the Orange with a 3-pointer and a turnover by Geben gave Syracuse a great shot to win it. But Battle, trying to set up a final shot for Syracuse, lost the ball back to Geben to set up the winning basket and Frank Howard’s desperation heave at the buzzer for the Orange was well short.
Pflueger had 12 points for Notre Dame, which scored 15 points off turnovers, none bigger than the last two.
Battle led Syracuse with 21 points, Howard had 10 and Oshae Brissett had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
The Irish (13-3, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) played without senior captains Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell. Colson had surgery Thursday for a broken left foot and is expected to miss eight weeks and Farrell sprained his left ankle too badly on Wednesday night against North Carolina State to play against the Orange.
Syracuse (12-4, 1-2 ACC) was coming off a 73-67 loss at Wake Forest, where the Orange were outrebounded for the first time this season. The Irish continued that trend, outrebounding Syracuse 42-27, 21-8 on the offensive glass.
Down by nine at halftime, the Irish scored eight straight points in the first 2:41 of the second as they found their range. Pflueger hit a 3 from left wing, Gibbs followed with a jumper in the lane and D.J. Harvey finished the quick spurt with a wide-open 3 from the right corner.
Battle responded with a floater in the lane and Brissett hit a 3 at the shot-clock buzzer to boost the Orange lead back to 33-27. After Pflueger hit a 3 to move the Irish within 38-37, Howard followed a miss by Brissett and two baskets by freshman forward Bourama Sidibe kept the Orange in front.
A two-handed slam by Geben moved Notre Dame within a point with 4:01 left. Gibbs followed with a pair of free throws to give Notre Dame its first lead since the first minute of play.
Gibbs continued to shine for the Irish in the absence of Farrell. He had 11 points in the first 20 minutes in the win over North Carolina State in the previous game and scored 14 of Notre Dame’s 19 points in the first half against Syracuse, which led 28-19 at the break. Gibbs was 5 of 10 from the floor and the rest of the lineup was 1 for 19 in the opening 20 minutes.
Notre Dame: The Irish missed the contributions of its two leading scorers. Colson was averaging 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds when he went out and Farrell was second on the team, averaging 15.9 points. Farrell’s return can’t come soon enough, but the hustle of the rest of the team has been impressive.
Syracuse: One of the Orange’s strengths has been rebounding, but they were dominated by the Irish as Notre Dame took advantage of its poor shooting to get second and third chances and struggled to convert them. Offensively, the season has been a struggle for the Orange and figures to continue that way with a short bench and not much rhythm in the attack.
Notre Dame outrebounded Syracuse 11-3 on the offensive glass in the first half and came away with only six points as the Irish shot only 6 of 29 (20.7 percent) and 2 of 12 (16.7 percent) from behind the arc. The Irish missed their first 10 shots and fell behind 9-1 before Gibbs sank a jumper from the wing at 14:08.
Former Orange star Dennis DuVal had his No. 22 retired at halftime, one of just 10 Syracuse players to be so honored. DuVal started all 81 games he played in at Syracuse from 1971-74. He averaged 18.6 points per game and scored 1,504 points during his career.
Notre Dame: Plays at Georgia Tech on Wednesday night.
Syracuse: Visits No. 8 Virginia on Tuesday night.