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College basketball: Cooney keeps Syracuse on top


SYRACUSE — The hangover from Saturday’s momentous overtime win over Duke lasted about 10 minutes Monday night.

Or until Syracuse redshirt sophomore guard Trevor Cooney put the Orange on his back and made sure his club remained No. 1 for at least another week.

Cooney scored a career-high 33 points, tying the school record with nine 3-pointers, as top-ranked SU held off Notre Dame 61-55 in an Atlantic Coast Conference game before 25,850 in the Carrier Dome.

Newly anointed the top team in the country after Arizona’s loss to California late Saturday, SU (22-0 overall, 9-0 ACC) overcame the worst performance of the season by leading scorer C. J. Fair to extend the school record for wins to begin a season.

Cooney, who had shot just 28 percent on 3-pointers in the first eight ACC games, finished 9-for-12 from beyond the arc and 11-for-15 overall, lifting the Orange on a night when nobody else reached double figures and the rest of the team was just 10 of 32 from the field.

His nine threes tied the school record held by James Southerland, Gerry McNamara and Andy Rautins. And as it turned out, the Orange needed every one of them as Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7) fought back from a 13-point halftime deficit and pushed SU to the limit.

“Tonight was just my night,” Cooney said. “I felt good coming into the game and got in a nice rhythm early. My teammates found me in good spots and at the right times.”

Fair, coming off a career-high 28 points versus Duke, went 2-for-13 from the floor, scoring six points, and missing double figures for only the second time this season.

“He’s allowed (to have a bad game),” said SU coach Jim Boeheim. “C.J. missed a lot of the same shots he’s been hitting so this was just one of those nights. Fortunately, Trevor got going early and never let up.”

Said Fair: “We got the win and that’s all that matters. They were daring me to shoot and I thought I had some good looks. But when they didn’t go down, I wasn’t aggressive enough going to the hoop.”

After going 5-for-7 from long distance and scoring 17 first-half points to spark the Orange to a 31-18 lead, Cooney missed his first three of the second half.

But he drained his second off a Rakeem Christmas offensive rebound a minute into the half, then hit his seventh of the game at the 12:07 mark to give SU a 43-32 lead.

SU’s offense went stagnant for about five minutes, and a Tom Knight dunk brought the Irish to within 43-40 with 8:37 left.

Jerami Grant (9 points) finally broke the SU scoring drought with a strong inside move. And Cooney then went off again.

He drained a three from the corner, converted a three-point play off a nice feed from Christmas, then sent the crowd into a tizzy with a bomb from beyond the top of the key with 4:14 left as SU built the lead back to 54-44.

“When Trevor’s hitting like that, you just feed him and sit back and applaud,” said Ennis, who scored just six points but had eight assists. “It’s nice to know you have a weapon like that when you need it.”

Ennis fed Grant for a key hoop, then made both ends of a 1-and-1 as the clock wound down under a minute. However, the Irish got as close as 58-53 after a Pat Connaughton 3-pointer with 40.5 seconds left.

Ennis and Fair missed the front end of 1-and-1s to give the Irish a chance. But Eric Atkins missed a short jumper and Connaughton misfired on a 3-pointer on consecutive possessions.

Grant hit two foul shots after an intentional foul and Cooney one in the final 10 seconds.

“Our interior defense was not good most of the game,” Boeheim said. “But we got a couple really big stops when it mattered most.”

Center Garrick Sherman led Notre Dame with 16 points, and Steve Vasturia added 13.

“It’s always tough getting back up for a game after such and emotional game as Duke,” Boeheim said. “We knew it would be a much slower pace and that we’d have to adjust. I think we did, but we just didn’t make enough shots. You just have to find a way to win, and we did thanks to Trevor.”

Ennis said there was virtually no discussion of SU being No. 1 prior to the game. “All we care about is playing our best at the end of the season,” he said. “But now we know we’ll be taking everybody’s best shot as long as we stay on top.”

Cooney hit four consecutive threes as SU rallied from a 12-9 deficit to take a 18-12 lead at the 7:50 mark of the first half.

A 15-foot baseline jumper made it five in a row. And as the first-half clock wound down, Cooney swished a 20-footer with three seconds left to give SU a 13-point lead.

“When I made that one, I knew it was going to be a magical night,” Cooney said. “Now I know I’m a marked man. But that will give other guys much more room to operate.”

SU is off until a Sunday night home game against Clemson.

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