SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) When V.J. Beachem gets to the rim, opportunities open up for him and No. 15 Notre Dame.
Midway through the first half Saturday against Syracuse, Beachem streaked along the baseline and threw down a thunderous two-handed dunk. Next trip down the court, there was Beachem again with another flush off a nifty behind-the-back pass from Matt Farrell.
Beachem decided to take it outside from there, banging home consecutive 3-pointers in a personal 10-2 run that broke things open for the Irish in an 84-66 victory over the Orange.
Beachem finished with a career-high 30 points for Notre Dame which snapped a four-game losing streak against Syracuse.
“The drive really opens up the outside shot for me,” Beachem said. “When you can get into the middle of the lane and make everybody look and collapse, that’s when the outside really opens up.”
Farrell added 15 points and nine assists for the Irish, who were coming off a three-point loss at No. 10 Florida State that stopped a seven-game winning streak.
“V.J. was fabulous,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “When we can get him flowing like that, it’s a confidence-giver to his teammates.”
On an unseasonably warm January day for Northern Indiana, with temperatures in the 50s, Notre Dame (17-3, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) was hot from outside, hitting 11 3-pointers against the Syracuse zone.
“We were really anxious to play against (the zone),” Beachem said. “The way we play offensively, we felt like we’d be fine against it.”
Beachem tied his career high with six 3s and added seven rebounds. He finished 12 of 22 from the field and his point total was the most by an Irish player since Bonzie Colson had 31 against Duke last season.
“Beachem, we just couldn’t get to him,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s a tremendous shooter and we just didn’t get to him.”
Despite sitting much of the first half with foul trouble, Colson still finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the season. Steve Vasturia added 11 points.
Tyler Lydon had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Syracuse (11-9, 3-4). Tyus Battle added 17 points and Andrew White III had 16.
“We can’t win with just three guys against anybody,” Boeheim said. “We have to have more guys. I can’t even describe how disappointed I am in a couple guys on our team.”
After being outrebounded by 20 in a loss to North Carolina on Monday, the Orange were again beaten on the boards, 39-28. Syracuse also struggled from deep, going just 6 of 19 from 3-point range.
“I think our defense was really the key today,” Brey said.
Notre Dame took a 16-point lead early in the second half with a 9-0 run and led by double digits the rest of the way. Rex Pflueger’s 3 with just over 4 minutes left gave the Irish their largest lead of 22 points.
Syracuse: The Orange are 0-5 on the road and have yet to beat a ranked team, after being ranked as high as No. 16 earlier in the season.
Notre Dame: The Irish have yet to lose consecutive games this season and figured out a response after dropping their first ACC game on Wednesday.
RING OF HONOR
Former All-America guard David Rivers was inducted into Notre Dame’s ring of honor at halftime. Rivers, who played from 1984-88, scored over 2,000 points in his career and was a first-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Lakers in 1988.
Rivers, who comes from a family of 15 children in Jersey City, NJ, nearly died in a car accident in 1986, but came back and averaged 22 points per game in his final season at Notre Dame.
Former Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps has called Rivers the best player he’s ever coached.
“When I hear that, it’s humbling,” Rivers said before Saturday’s game. “I take it as one of the greatest compliments I could ever receive, and I just move on, because I’m familiar with some of these names that are up there (in the ring of honor) already. It’s just awesome company.”
Following a close loss at No. 10 Florida State on Wednesday, the Irish don’t figure to slide much after keeping pace with the ACC’s top teams.
Syracuse: The Orange return home for two, starting with Wake Forest on Tuesday before No. 10 Florida State visits on Saturday.
Notre Dame: The Irish host three of their next four, beginning with No. 16 Virginia on Tuesday.
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