SYRACUSE, N.Y. — John Mooney had his typical game for Notre Dame, and it was just enough for the Irish to hold off Syracuse.
Mooney matched his career high with 28 points and pulled down 14 rebounds and the Irish hit 15 3-pointers in an 88-87 victory Saturday over the Orange.
Held to nine points and just four rebounds in the first half, Mooney responded in a big way in the second, his sixth and final offensive rebound of the game leading to a tough putback that broke a tie with 40 seconds left and gave Notre Dame the lead for good.
“I just crashed the glass. It kind of came right to me,” said the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Mooney. “I got blocked on the first attempt and I just put it back up. It was a big play, I guess. I kind of have the mentality that every shot is going to be a miss.
“‘I’m not the most athletic guy in the world, so I kind of got to use my body, use positioning to get in between guys and I just have a knack for the ball I guess.”
Prentiss Hubb had 22 points and T.J. Gibbs, who matched Hubb with six 3-pointers, finished with 21 points.
Notre Dame (10-4, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) won its second straight in the Carrier Dome for the first time since the Irish won on their first three visits — in 1986, 1990 and 1992.
“He (Mooney) has been doing that all year. He’s the best rebounder in the country,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. We did a good job of getting the ball to him from the foul line down to the baseline, but we’re the best passing team in the country. We had 26 assists. That’s the way the game should be played. That’s a beautiful game.”
Buddy Boeheim led Syracuse with 23 points, Joe Girard III had 20 and Elijah Hughes 19. Marek Dolezaj had 13 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the Orange (8-6, 1-2) saw their three-game winning streak end.
After Mooney’s lay-in gave Notre Dame a 70-69 lead with 5:31 left, Hubb was assessed a technical foul after a bump with Girard, who sank both free throws to start a personal 10-point run that put the Orange up 79-75 with 3:37 left and had the Carrier Dome rocking.
“It was just being competitive,” Girard said. “If somebody challenges me or any competitor, usually you’re going to step your game up a little bit. I think I was a little bit surprised. He was just competing. The refs saw it. He got over it. I got over it.”
A jumper from the wing by Boeheim gave the Orange a four-point lead, but a tip-in by Juwan Durham and two free throws by Gibbs moved the Irish within 82-81 with 1:51 left.
Hubb’s 3 tied it at 84 and he hit two free throws with 18.1 seconds left to provide the eventual margin of victory. Girard hit a 3 at the buzzer and appeared to be fouled on the play but none was called.
“They didn’t call it. That’s fine,” Buddy Boeheim said. “That’s a tough call to make at the end of the game, but you can’t look at that play to decide the game. There’s a lot more before that that happened to decide the game.”
Both teams entered the game averaging over nine made 3-pointers per game, ranking second and third in the conference behind Virginia Tech. Syracuse also finished 15 of 31 to tie the school record for 3s in a game.
Dolezaj’s foul line jumper tied the game at 48 early in the second before Notre Dame fashioned an 11-0 run with the long ball, three from Hubb and another from Gibbs to gain a 64-56 lead.
Two free throws by Hughes and 3-pointers by Boeheim and Hughes knotted the score again at 64 with 8:38 left.
Gibbs went on a personal spurt early, hitting three straight 3s and scoring 10 of the Irish’s first 12 points of the game, including a four-point play.
Syracuse rallied behind Hughes, who hit a pair of 3s and a jumper in succession as the Orange made eight straight shots to tie the game at 28 with 7:13 left in the first half. A shot off the glass by Hughes on a drive through the middle gave the Orange the lead and Quincy Guerrier banked in a 3 in the final minute to give Syracuse a 40-37 lead at the break.
Mooney was tied for first in the nation in rebounds-per-game (13.5) and now has recorded 11 double-doubles — eight in a row. He’s the only player in Division I averaging over 14 points and 13 rebounds and reached 700 rebounds for his career early in the second half. He’s the only player in the ACC averaging a double-double.
Notre Dame: The Irish entered the game leading the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.90 — 237 assists with 125 turnovers. The NCAA record for assist-to-turnover ratio in a season is 2.01 by West Virginia in 2006. Notre Dame had nine turnovers in the game to 11 for the Orange.
“Because of what we can do offensively and that potential, you can get on a run in this league because you can score the ball like that,” Brey said. “So hopefully we can take this with us.”
Syracuse: The Orange entered the game lacking a presence around the basket with a minus-1 rebounding margin and had been outrebounded in six of the previous eight games. Bourama Sidibe had five offensive rebounds in the first five minutes to tie his career high and Syracuse finished with a 21-13 edge on the boards, 7-1 on the offensive glass, in the first half. The second half was a different story as the Irish outrebounded Syracuse 26-15 and notched 24 second-chance points in the game to 14 for Syracuse as Sidibe disappeared, snaring just one more board.
“That was the game,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just couldn’t get anything in the second half (rebounding). The first half we were OK on the boards. In the second half we did nothing.”
Notre Dame plays at North Carolina State on Wednesday night.
Syracuse hosts Virginia Tech on Tuesday night.