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Falls helps shoot Notre Dame into Big East semifinals

Mar 9, 2007 - 12:35 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Colin Falls shot down any chance of Syracuse making it three in a row.

Falls scored 14 of his 23 points in the second half as No. 16 Notre Dame snapped the Orange's lengthy winning streak in the Big East Conference Tournament with an 89-83 quarterfinal victory.

While the Fighting Irish (24-6) advanced to face top-seeded Georgetown in Friday's semifinals, the Orange saw their bid for a third straight tournament title and an eight-game winning streak in the event halted.

That run by Syracuse was a win short of the tournament record, set by Connecticut from 1998-2000.

"Last time you know they whipped us," Notre Dame guard Russell Carter said about the upcoming matchup with the Hoyas. "To get a chance to play them again, as Coach said, they are the regular-season champs and it's a tough challenge and we have to be up for it."

Behind the shooting of Gerry McNamara last season, Syracuse became the first Big East team to win the tournament in four games as a No. 9 seed.

Carter scored 24 points and freshman Luke Harangody added 20 and 11 rebounds for fourth-seeded Notre Dame, which shot 13-of-34 (38 percent) on 3-pointers.

"I just love we were playing with a free mind," Irish coach Mike Brey said about the strong shooting. "We can offense you now. We put numbers on the board."

The Irish, who scored 57 points in the second half, clicked from the field in similar fashion as they did in their lone regular-season matchup with the Orange.

In a 103-91 victory at Syracuse on January 30, Notre Dame shot 56 percent with 11 3-pointers in scoring the most points by an opponent in the history of the Carrier Dome.

"I think the reason they didn't play us (in a) 2-3 zone the first time was because of our ability to do that," Falls said about the team's shooting ability. "But when we play against a zone and a team that can shoot the ball like we can, you're almost picking your poison."

In a performance reminiscent of McNamara from a year ago, Falls finished 7-of-17 from the arc, tying the Big East Tournament record for most 3-point attempts with Boston College's Dana Barros in 1989.

"I just think spacing-wise, I got a bunch of clean looks," said Falls, who set a season high on made 3-pointers. "I missed a lot of shots but I guess I have to mix it up a little more."

Surpassing McNamara for most career 3-pointers in Big East games against Marquette on February 24, Falls hit a pair from the arc during a 15-3 run that turned a 39-36 deficit into a 51-42 advantage with 14:08 remaining.

The Irish's decision to switch to a zone defense in the second half enabled the rally, taking the Orange by surprise and forcing them to hesitate offensively.

"I didn't think we adjusted right," Syracuse leading scorer Demetris Nichols said. "When they went to the zone, we started doing things that we were not suppose to and got out of our game plan and that was what caught us off-guard."

The Orange, who advanced to the quarters with a 78-65 win over Connecticut on Wednesday, did manage to close within 70-66 with 5:07 left on a layup by freshman Paul Harris, who finished with a season-high 24 points.

However, Carter split two free throws, Harangody converted a pair at the stripe and Falls added another 3-pointer and two free throws later for an 81-70 cushion with 1:42 to play.

Notre Dame added 8-of-10 free throws inside the final 1:13 and finished 85 percent (22-of-26) from the stripe.

"Our poise was pretty good when we were down in the first half and I thought we hung in there," Brey said. "And our offense eventually got in gear. It took a 57-point half for us to escape with a win. We needed every point."

"I thought we made big buckets and I thought we made big free throws to win the game against a very good team."

Harris, who scored 15 points in the second half, finished 9-of-16 from the field and also posted a season high in rebounds with 15.

Scoring 28 points in the win over UConn, Nichols finished with 19 points for Syracuse (22-10), which struggled from the free-throw line, making just 16-of-29 (55 percent).

"You can't miss 11 free throws and expect to win the game," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "There is nothing I can do about missing free throws. You miss and try to get it back. We weren't as active and moving around in the second half as the first half."

Trailing, 14-13, in the first half, the Orange went on a 13-2 run to take a 26-16 advantage with 8:44 remaining before halftime. Harris, who had nine points in just six first-half minutes, scored seven straight during the burst.

Syracuse went on to take a 34-32 edge at the half despite just one point by Nichols, who went 0-of-4 with three 3-point attempts in the opening 20 minutes.