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SU gets career-high 27 points from Cooney in season-opening win

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SYRACUSE — It may have just been the season opener for the eighth-ranked Syracuse University men’s basketball team Friday night, but coach Jim Boeheim was already in his feisty midseason form afterward.

Trevor Cooney finished with career highs of 27 points and seven 3-point field goals, C.J. Fair added 19 points and the Orange beat Cornell, 82-60, after trailing at halftime in front of 24,788 at the Carrier Dome.

Following the victory, Boeheim unloaded about what he feels are lofty preseason expectations placed upon SU (1-0).

“I think the height of foolishness is to think that we’re going to win like, 29 games and lose two?” Boeheim said before he praised last year’s departed starting backcourt — Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche — a duo that led SU to its fifth Final Four and a 30-win season.

“When you lose those two guys and you’re playing a freshman guard and a sophomore guard that didn’t play last year? I don’t know what people see. Maybe I don’t know basketball, I guess.”

Cooney came on strong late in the first half for a lifeless SU team that trailed for most of the period. He hit two 3-pointers in the final 90 seconds to help SU cut a double digit lead to six at the break.

“That’s when you know the game is really coming to you and you’re really feeling it,” said Cooney, who shot 10-of-12 from the field and 7-of-8 from behind the 3-point line. He added four steals.

Boeheim said of Cooney: “He bailed us out when we really needed him in the first half, when we had nothing. He hit those two 3s to get us close at halftime and those were two monster shots.”

Cooney, a red-shirt sophomore, made his first career start after struggling to get consistent minutes off the bench last season.

“Knowing that you don’t have to look over your shoulder is big,” Cooney said. “And just knowing that your responsibilities are a little bigger and all you have to do is step up to the plate.”

Fair, the Atlantic Coast Conference’s preseason player of the year, added minimal production outside of his scoring and finished with seven turnovers.

“C.J. is trying to do a little too much,” Boeheim said. “He has to play his game which is not what it was tonight. He’s got to find his spots and play the way he plays, not the way somebody else plays. I thought he made some plays that are not characteristic of him.”

Junior Rakeem Christmas added 12 points and was the only other SU player in double figures.

Heralded freshman guard Tyler Ennis scored just one point in his debut, but did provide eight rebounds and seven assists to just two turnovers.

Boeheim said he was pleased with Ennis’s play, before saying that “He’s not Michael Carter-Williams.”

“We’re not that team. We’re not last year’s team,” Boeheim said. “Michael Carter-Williams would have gone through here and dunked on these guys, like six times. The game never would have gotten going. He’s just not here.”

Boeheim continued: “That’s like people that buy the lottery tickets, that’s what they’re like. They buy a lottery ticket and actually think they’re going to win. I mean, come on. How do you lose those players and think you’re going to be better? That’s just unbelievable. That’s absurd.”

Boeheim then offered what he views as a realistic expectation for this year’s Orange.

“We’re going to get better and we’re going to come back and try to play better next week and go game by game and see if we can become what everybody is predicting we could become. We’re far from it right now.”

nNOTES: Notably absent from Friday’s win was sophomore reserve forward Jerami Grant. Boeheim did not say why Grant was not in uniform, but said that he would be back next game. When asked to elaborate, he simply replied: “Nah.”

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