SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Notre Dame coach Muffet McGraw winced when Ashley Barlow launched from beyond the arc in the final minute and the third-ranked Irish trailed Syracuse by a basket.
But Barlow, who had missed her previous four 3-point attempts, was true from the right wing with 34.2 seconds left and Notre Dame escaped with a 74-73 victory on Saturday.
The Irish finished 2 of 12 in the period from beyond the arc against the fired-up Orange zone, which was victimized for eight 3s in the first half.
"That 3 was so big. We ran a play for her to get it and we executed well, screened well," McGraw said. "Despite my screaming the entire half to stop shooting the 3, she just kept her poise and made it."
Juanita Ward's three-point play had given the Orange a 73-71 lead with a minute left, but Barlow got open on the wing and saved Notre Dame (19-1, 6-1 Big East), which has beaten Syracuse (16-5, 3-5) 22 times in 23 meetings.
"We just had to stay with it. We didn't hold our heads down," said Barlow, who tied her season high with 19 points. "We knew that we had to get a couple of rebounds at the end of the game. We knew we had to make a stop."
The Orange deserved a better fate. Their aggressive defense limited Notre Dame to 25 percent shooting (7 of 28) in the second half and they repeatedly drove the ball inside, outscoring the Irish 22-6 in the paint in the period (38-20 overall).
"Defensively, we couldn't guard the ball," McGraw said. "They got to the line 37 times. We did a poor job of containing the ball. We did a poor job on the boards. We just really didn't play our game, and yet despite all the foul trouble and ice-cold shooting in the second half, we managed to hold onto the win."
Syracuse also outrebounded Notre Dame 49-34, but was undone by 25 turnovers and 14 missed free throws.
"We stand up here every day and talk about our kids' effort, how hard they play," Orange coach Quentin Hillsman said. "I'm very appreciative, but the effort has to turn into wins. The effort has to turn into big wins. Right now, our efforts aren't turning into big wins. When you outrebound a team like that [and don't win], that's tough."
After the Irish's Lindsay Schrader missed the front end of a 1-and-1, a held ball gave Syracuse one final possession with less than a second left. Tasha Harris' inbounds pass to Kayla Alexander in the lane was deflected away.
"We didn't let them get us rattled," said Irish freshman guard Skylar Diggins, who matched her season high with 21 points. "We knew what we had to do to get calmed down. Their defensive pressure really picked up. They really got after it, had a lot of energy in the second half. We held it together."
Ward led Syracuse with 16 points, Erica Morrow had 14, Vionca Murray 12 and Nicole Michael 11 before fouling out in the final minute.
The Irish survived despite squandering a 16-point lead in the opening minutes of the game. Syracuse began the second half with a 21-5 spurt to erase a 14-point halftime deficit and make it a game as the Irish went cold, hitting just 4 of their first 18 shots of the period.
Tyler Ash's fast-break layup had the Orange within 53-47 at 16:35, and three straight points by Morrow tied it at 58 with 11:03 left.
Michael's floater in the lane gave the Orange their first lead since the opening 2 minutes of the game, but Diggins tied it with a jumper in the lane and sank a free throw to put the Irish back in front.
It was tight the remainder of the game, with Notre Dame barely holding the lead. Brittany Mallory's 3 gave the Irish a 68-63 with 5:56 left, and after Murray's follow moved Syracuse within 68-67 just over a minute later, Harris fouled Mallory while she was shooting a 3 and she sank all three free throws to boost the Irish lead to 71-67 with 3:15 to go.
Seconds later, Murray missed a pair of free throws and Michael missed another with 71 seconds left.
"How many free throws we missed, I missed," said Murray, who was 2 of 5 from the foul line. "We could have won that game. We'll come back from this."