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Syracuse breaks offensive funk, pulls away from Notre Dame

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That definitely wasn’t pretty, Syracuse. At least not early.

However, the no. 9 Orange shook off a bad start first — both teams started the game poorly on the offensive end — and got a double-double from C. J. Fair to pull out a 63-47 victory over the no. 25 Fighting Irish at the Carrier Dome.

The win also snaps a two-game losing skid for Syracuse.

Syracuse’s scoring struggles weren’t so much a problem getting the ball in the basket, but just with any consistency. The Orange got out to a 10-0 lead in the first five-and-a-half minutes. Notre Dame, however, couldn’t get anything to drop, taking and missing only five shots in that same span before Eric Atkins hit a three at the 14:10 mark to break the drought.

The Irish responded with an 11-o run of their own to take the lead over just the next two-and-a-half minutes.

So yea, it was a game of struggle, then run, then struggle. The score was 18-17 Syracuse with 5:40 left in the half before both teams woke up and ended the half with Syracuse up 30-24.

The Orange steadily pulled away in the second half, with the final 16-point margin being the largest lead of the game with either team.

Fair finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds while Michael Carter-Williams, who got back being the best distributor in the country, finished with eight assists and only one turnovers. Jack Cooley finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame.

Syracuse finished shooting 48.9-percent from the field, so the offensive struggle didn’t last long. Notre Dame hit 34.6-percent of their shots.

As Louisville can attest with their slump-buster over Pittsburgh last week, any win, however ugly, counts. The Orange got it. As for Notre Dame, it’s been a bit of a rough stretch since the win over a ranked Cincinnati team on Jan. 7. Losses to Connecticut, St. John’s, Georgetown and now Syracuse aren’t helping the Irish’s at-large hopes.

David Harten is the founder of The Backboard Chronicles. Follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: