Syracuse basketball: Cooney's big night lifts Orange to nail-biting victory

The guard's best shooting performance of the season helped set up a dramatic last-second win.

Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson couldn’t have picked a better time to have their best games of the season.

As senior center Rakeem Christmas and freshman forward Chris McCullough struggled to stay out of foul trouble against Louisiana Tech, the much-maligned Cooney and Roberson sparked Syracuse (6-3) to a 71-69 win over the visiting Bulldogs that ended the Orange’s two-game non-conference losing streak.

"I came out today from the start and I wanted to be aggressive. That's how I wanted to play, and I was able to do that today."
— Trevor Cooney

Coming into the game, Cooney seemingly couldn’t shoot from beyond the arc with consistency and Roberson couldn’t stay out of head coach Jim Boeheim’s doghouse. That all changed during Sunday’s thriller at the Carrier Dome.

Roberson chipped in with 14 points and 17 rebounds, including 11 offensive boards.

However, it was Cooney who really stole the show.

After missing his first three-point attempt of the night, Cooney sank his second on an assist from Christmas. He proceeded to put together one of the best all-around performances of his career, finishing with 25 points on 8-of-18 shooting and four triples. He also added three steals and two assists on the night.

“I missed my first three, but made the next one. It’s all about staying positive,” Cooney said. "I came out today from the start and I wanted to be aggressive. That's how I wanted to play, and I was able to do that today."

It also helps to have your coach behind you every step of the way, even when you’re struggling.

"He wasn't a shooter. He got to the basket. He drove and he made plays. That's huge for us," Boeheim said. "Trevor is a very good player, and he's proven himself.

“Today, he showed again that he can do other things."

Cooney’s biggest shot came with 6:50 remaining in the second half.

Following a turnover by Bulldogs guard Alex Hamilton, McCullough found the streaking Cooney, who knocked down a three-pointer to give the Orange a 59-50 lead that should have put SU in control.

From there, Hamilton helped Louisiana Tech (7-3) roar back with an individual 9-0 run largely aided by turnovers from B.J. Johnson, Roberson and freshman point guard Kaleb Joseph.

On the night, Syracuse turned the ball over 17 times, allowing Louisiana Tech to get back into the game. The biggest turnover of that stretch happened when Roberson attempted to catch a pass from Cooney with one hand.

"We're learning," Boeheim said. "Nothing is going to happen magically, but I know that I cannot coach catching the basketball at this stage. If we have to do that and go get the ball, if we have to do those things, we can't possibly win. That's it."

Despite the turnover, Christmas took a feed from Cooney on an inbounds play with 4.7 seconds left and dropped in a soft right hook from just inside the free throw line to give Syracuse the decisive lead.

"That was a big play for me in that situation," Christmas said. "(Boeheim) was upset that we were up by 10 and let them come back."

Even though the Orange snapped a two-game losing streak, there are still plenty of concerns surrounding this year’s team, according to Boeheim.

"This isn't like the last six years," Boeheim said. "We're going to struggle to win a game, any game that we play. This team is not going to beat anybody that's any good if they don't play better. That means all 18 games in the ACC. I don't care if somebody thinks, oh, they're not that good. They're good enough. Trust me. We have to play a lot better. We have to get better, and we have to figure that out and we'll see.”

Syracuse travels to Philadelphia on Saturday to face former Big East rival and seventh-ranked Villanova. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m. and can be seen on FOX. 

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