SYRACUSE — Syracuse's Frank Howard was blunt in his assessment of the Orange's two-game skid in Atlantic Coast Conference play.
"We've got to make a decision as a team," the junior guard said. "We got comfortable and you can just see that in our play. We're not going after the ball. We don't have that chip on our shoulder. We're going to lose if we play like that."
Syracuse (12-4, 1-2 ACC) played that way on Saturday against Notre Dame and lost 51-49 , the Orange's second setback at home this season. The Irish's winning basket, a putback by Rex Pflueger after a turnover by Tyus Battle, came with 2.6 seconds left. Battle raced back down the court and foiled a layup attempt by T.J. Gibbs at the other end, but he had no help, with Howard and freshman Marek Dolezaj trotting slowly behind the play and watching the winning basket go in.
Coach Jim Boeheim said Monday it wasn't a lack of hustle.
"Two of our guys made a horrendous mistake. Neither guy had an explanation," Boeheim said. "It wasn't effort. I think he (Dolezaj) and Frank just thought, the game's over. Obviously, it wasn't. That's the only explanation I can have for it. They completely lost their mind in terms of the clock.
"If they both hustled down there, it would have been no basket."
Syracuse's slide includes a loss last week at Wake Forest , and both setbacks were similar. Syracuse was outrebounded in each, the only times that's happened this season, and the Orange couldn't take advantage of injuries to both opponents.
The Demon Deacons played most of the game without leading scorer Keyshawn Woods, who was averaging 15.7 points but left in the first half with a knee injury. Notre Dame was without its top two scorers — Bonzie Colson is out eight weeks with a broken foot and guard Matt Farrell missed with a badly sprained ankle.
The season-low 49 points dropped Syracuse's average to 70 as the Orange hit the road this week for games against two ranked teams — No. 3 Virginia (14-1, 3-0 ACC) on Tuesday night and No. 23 Florida State (12-3, 1-2 ACC) on Saturday.
Syracuse is tied for 278th in scoring and hasn't netted more than 68 points in the past five games as it gets set to face the top defensive team in the nation. And the transition game that's been a hallmark of Boeheim's teams is missing.
"We just can't score right away. It takes a long time for us to get good shots," Boeheim said. "I'm happy. The shots we're getting are good shots, but we can't get them really quickly. We're just not a team that can run unless we get a long miss or turnover."
The memory of Saturday's setback can't fade soon enough for freshman forward Oshae Brissett. He finished with his eighth double-double of the season (10 points, 11 rebounds), but he was just 3 of 15 shooting and all three makes were from beyond the arc. The Irish kept Brissett from the drives to the basket that have made him a force inside.
"I'm just going to keep doing what I do, just try to get to the basket, try to get to the free throw line," said Brissett, who is averaging 15.2 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Added Boeheim: "He is our main offensive weapon on the front line. He's got to score for us to win."