Cooney dazzles as Syracuse triumphs in 61-55 win over Notre Dame

Trevor Cooney scored a career-high 33 points and tied a school record with nine three-pointers in the win.

Every time Notre Dame looked like it was going upset No. 1 Syracuse, the unlikeliest of heroes swooped in to save the day.

Rather, he swished in.

Trevor Cooney, who averaged 13.2 points-per-game going into Monday’s game, shot 9-of-15 from behind the arc to lift the Orange (22-0, 9-0 ACC) past a scrappy Fighting Irish quad, 61-55. Cooney scored a career-high 33 points and tied a Syracuse record with nine three-pointers in the game, also a career best.

Photo: Andrew Renneisen
Trevor Cooney (#10) attempts a shot against Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia (#10) and another Fighting Irish player. Cooney finished the night with a career-high 33 points.

“He was outstanding,” assistant coach Gerry McNamara said. “It’s rare you get to see performances like that.” McNamara, whose record Cooney tied, was instrumental in Cooney’s development in the offseason.

Head coach Jim Boeheim compared Monday’s game with SU’s win earlier this year against Cornell. In that game, C.J. Fair went 6-of-11, Tyler Ennis went 0-6 and Jerami Grant didn’t play. Cooney, on the other hand, scored a then-career-high 27 points with seven three-pointers and Syracuse won its first game of the year.

"Fortunately, Trevor must have gotten the message early that they were not going to play well so he had to make shots," Boeheim said.

Against Notre Dame, a similar situation occurred. Fair shot 2-of-13, Ennis shot 2-of-5 and Grant shot 3-of-8. And again, Cooney stepped up when his team needed him most.

Seven minutes into the game, Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7 ACC) led Syracuse 12-9. Garrick Sherman and the Fighting Irish dominated the paint, and the Orange couldn’t make a shot. But when Notre Dame switched to a zone defense, Syracuse knew what to do: give it to Cooney. In a four-minute span, Cooney scored 11 of his 17 first-half points and gave the Orange an eight-point lead with 6:05 to go in the half. The rest of the Orange took it from there, ending the half on a 21-6 run to go up 31-18.

“In the first half, neither team could score except for Trevor,” Boeheim said. “It was his half and he kept us to where we had the lead.”

After the fourth three-pointer, Cooney said he could feel he was getting hot. And after the three-pointer that sent the game to halftime, Cooney said he knew he was in a "good groove."

Cooney opened the second half much like he ended first. After missing his first shot a few seconds into the half, Rakeem Christmas grabbed the offensive rebound and gave it back to Cooney, who promptly converted the three-pointer to give the Orange a 34-20 lead early in the second half.

But as they did all night, Notre Dame didn’t back down in the face of a large deficit. After the Orange went up by 14, the Fighting Irish went on a 20-9 run to come within three points of the SU lead with 8:46 remaining the contest.

The Orange called on Cooney once more, and the sophomore guard delivered in record fashion. With 5:49 to go in the game, Cooney scored his eighth three-pointer of the night to give the Orange a 48-41 lead. Cooney followed that up by breaking his career point record of 27 in a not-so-Cooney way. With Christmas near the top of the key and Cooney in the post, the forward rifled a pass underneath to the guard. Cooney collected the pass and converted a three-point play via a lay-up and foul shot. And for the cherry on top, Cooney hit another three to give the Orange a 10-point 54-44 lead with 4:29 left in the game.

“Trevor saved the game for us,” Fair said. “He had the hot hand and not too many people do that. Usually when you have the hot hand you make five or six threes, he made nine.”

Notre Dame stayed within reach of the Orange for the remainder of the game, but the SU defense held tough, and the Orange held on to remain undefeated on the season.

“You’ve got to find a way to win these games, and we were able to do that,” Boeheim said. “It’s been a tough four games in 10 days, which is a lot, but we got through it and we’ll be able to get a couple days of rest in and I think that will be good for us.”

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