Trevor Cooney’s career-high 33 keep No. 1 Syracuse perfect
February 3rd, 2014 (AP) – Trevor Cooney has hit shooting touch back — just in the nick of time for top-ranked Syracuse.
Cooney scored a career-high 33 points, matching a school record with nine 3-pointers, and the Orange beat Notre Dame 61-55 on Monday night in another matchup of former Big East foes.
After struggling to a woeful 25.4 percent (14 of 55) from behind the arc in his first seven Atlantic Coast Conference games, Cooney has hit 11 of 13 in the past two games and was the difference against the Irish as the Orange’s front line faltered.
“It feels good,” Cooney said. “I kind of got going and guys just found me in good spots.”
Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), which moved to No. 1 this week after its scintillating 91-89 overtime victory over Duke on Saturday night and Arizona’s loss to California, extended its school record for most consecutive wins to start a season. Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7) has lost seven of nine.
Two days after one of the most emotional wins in Jim Boeheim’s 38 years as head coach, Syracuse played its first game as the nation’s top team since the 2011-12 season. Two years ago, the Orange were unbeaten and ranked No. 1 when they went to South Bend, and Notre Dame upset them 67-58.
It was the eighth time Notre Dame had beaten a No. 1 team and turned out to be Syracuse’s lone loss of the regular season.
“That was in the back of my mind,” said C.J. Fair, who had a season-low six points on 2-of-13 shooting after scoring a career-high 28 against Duke. “I didn’t want that to happen again.”
Cooney made sure there was no repeat, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half as the Orange gained a 13-point halftime advantage, then barely held the Irish at bay in the second half.
“We put ourselves in position to make it interesting,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We came into this game, and especially if you watch what they did to Duke, beating them up in the paint. You really try to take stuff away in the paint. I thought overall with the guys that destroy you in the paint we did a good job. But we couldn’t do a good job on Cooney. Seven of the nine I think we challenged. He was just in one of those zones, and you’ve got to take your hat off.”
Cooney, 9 of 12 from long range, matched the record set by Gerry McNamara in the 2004 NCAA tournament and equaled by Andy Rautins in 2008 and James Southerland in 2012.
Jerami Grant and Fair, who combined for 54 points against Duke, combined for just 15, while Tyler Ennis found little room in the lane to penetrate and finished with six points and eight assists.
Garrick Sherman led Notre Dame with 16 points, Steve Vasturia had 13, and Pat Connaughton 11, while Eric Atkins had nine on 3-of-10 shooting.
Notre Dame closed within 38-32 on a 3-pointer from Atkins with 14:19 to play, but Syracuse responded with seven straight points. Grant slammed home a dunk after his block on Sherman and Fair followed with a slam off a Grant miss. Cooney completed the run with his seventh 3-pointer, which tied his personal best.
The Irish have four long-range threats in Atkins, Connaughton, Vasturia, and Demetrius Jackson, who had combined for 127 3-pointers on the season entering the game, and Notre Dame’s long-range attack came alive in the second half after going 1 of 6 in the first 20 minutes.
Two 3-pointers by Atkins, Vasturia’s three-point play and a slam dunk by Tom Knight moved the Irish back within 43-40 with 8:41 to go.
Grant responded with a spinning drive through the lane and Cooney hit another 3. Grant then fed Cooney for a reverse layup and three-point play and Cooney hit his ninth 3 for a 54-44 lead with 4:14 to play.
Notre Dame refused to wilt, pulling back to 54-49 on Connaughton’s three-point play at 2:52.
“That’s who this group is,” Brey said. “We haven’t been able to get over the hump and win enough. We’ve been down on the road just about every time, and we come back and give ourselves a chance. I love that about us. If we keep doing that enough, I think we’ll get a couple of them.”
Grant’s layup off a feed from Ennis and two free throws by Ennis boosted the lead back to eight, and the Orange made it interesting when Ennis and Fair each missed the front end of 1-and-1s in the final minute.
Atkins missed a floater and Connaughton was off on a 3-point attack in the final seconds.
“I had a look and missed, which would have been a really big shot for us,” Atkins said. “That was a huge play. But they played great. They made plays when they were needed.”
*Photo courtesy of Brett Carlsen/Getty Images