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Notre Dame hands No. 1 Syracuse first loss of season

Jan 22, 2012 - 2:17 AM South Bend, IN (Sports Network) - Syracuse might not have had Fab Melo on the court for Saturday's contest against Notre Dame, but it lacked much more than him.

Doomed by a slow start and scoring struggles in the second half, the top- ranked Orange dropped a 67-58 decision to the Irish and saw their 20-game winning streak come to an end.

Jack Cooley scored 17 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Notre Dame (12-8, 4-3 Big East), which earned the eighth victory against the No. 1 team in school history.

Syracuse (20-1, 7-1) made a late charge, but couldn't overcome a deficit that was still in double digits with five minutes to play. The loss means only one undefeated Division I team remains -- Murray State.

The Orange, whose 20-0 start was the best in school history, lost the rebounding battle by a 38-25 margin. Part of that was because they did not have Melo, who will not be with the team for its current road trip for unspecified reasons.

But that figure is all the more eye-popping because Syracuse shot just 34 percent, yet grabbed only eight offensive boards. Melo was averaging a team-best 5.7 rebounds prior to Saturday's contest.

The rebounding problems were an offshoot of the larger issue -- an inability to hit shots.

Syracuse missed five of its first seven shots and trailed 13-4 less than five minutes into the game. The Orange started to make more shots and stabilized the deficit, and midway through the first half James Southerland -- who led Syracuse with 15 points -- drilled a three-pointer to make it a 23-14 game.

But Syracuse scored only three points in the next nine minutes, allowing Notre Dame to take control. Alex Dragicevich drained a three-pointer with 1 1/2 minutes left to push the Irish lead to 35-17.

The Orange's Dion Waiters ended the half with back-to-back threes, and a long- distance make by Brandon Triche shortly into the second half pulled Syracuse within 37-28.

But Syracuse started to struggle from the floor again, going without a field goal for the next four-plus minutes. Notre Dame used the opportunity to push its lead back into double digits, and held a 50-33 advantage when Jerian Grant sank a layup with 12 1/2 minutes left.

However, the Irish also had trouble on offense. Following Grant's layup, they didn't score for more than seven minutes.

Syracuse went on a 9-0 run during that time, then pulled within 60-53 on a three-point play by Triche with 2:25 to go. But Triche and Waiters missed threes on the Orange's next two possessions, offensive opportunities Syracuse couldn't afford to pass up on.

While Southerland drilled a three just inside the final minute, trimming the Orange's deficit to 62-56, Syracuse missed its next three shots -- all three- pointers -- and Notre Dame made 5-of-6 free throws to secure the victory.

Game Notes

Notre Dame shot 50 percent...Also on Saturday, Syracuse announced that seldom- used junior forward Mookie Jones has left school for personal reasons. Jones had appeared in seven games this season...Notre Dame's last win against a No. 1 team was on February 1, 1987, when it defeated North Carolina at home by a 60-58 score...Scott Martin finished with 13 points for ND, while Grant had 11...Kris Joseph had 12 points for Syracuse...The Orange were aiming to set the record for the best start by a Big East team. They had been tied with Boston College, which went 20-0 at the start of the 2004-05 season.