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 six of 13 shots from 3-point land. His previous high for made triples was four.
T.J. Gibbs netted 18 points, dished five assists and sank a career-best six 3-pointers in 13 tries for the Fighting Irish (10-5, 0-2).
John Mooney chipped in his seventh double-double with 14 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
ND, 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 from the field.
“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, who led 38-37 at halftime, 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 by draining 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.”
It was the 50th meeting all-time between the former Big East rivals, with the Orange owning a 29-21 advantage.
Syracuse: The Orange have won three straight, and with their next two games at home, have a chance to build momentum toward their next matchup against a ranked team. They haven’t played one since falling 71-59 to visiting Buffalo on Dec. 18 and won’t face another until heading to No. 1 Duke on Jan. 14.
Notre Dame: It only gets more challenging for the Irish. Four of their next six outings will be against ranked teams, capped by No. 4 Virginia and No. 1 Duke in a span of three days on Jan. 26 and 28 at home.
Syracuse entered the day shooting just 43 percent from the field overall and 29.9 on 3-pointers, but made a season-best 12 baskets outside the arc in 29 attempts for 41.4 percent.
The Orange have hit 47.9 percent from the field overall during their three-game winning streak and 25-of-69 from distance for 36.2 percent.
“It’s the same shots we’ve been getting all year,” Boeheim said. “We’re just shooting it better.”
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, ND’s only scholarship senior and its perimeter defensive ace, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December, sidelining him for the season.
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. We need him and he needs us. He needs to be with us, so I love the basketball part of it, but everything this young man’s done for us, and what’s going on with Mom right now . he needs to be with us another year.”
Syracuse: The Orange play their ACC home opener Wednesday when Clemson visits.
Notre Dame: The Irish are off until hosting Boston College next weekend, the second of four straight Saturday home games on their ACC schedule.