Syracuse finds offensive rhythm in 77-53 win over Western Michigan

Trevor Cooney scored 18 points and the No. 3-seeded Orange blew past the No. 14 seed Broncos.

BUFFALO - Trevor Cooney’s first shot was a miss.

But he shook it off, and less than a minute after that attempt, and only three minutes into the game against Western Michigan, the sophomore sharpshooter whistled in his first three-pointer, igniting a pro-Orange crowd of over 19,000 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y.

“It was just good to see one go in,” Cooney said. “I was able to get into a good rhythm and guys found me in good spots.”

"(Tyler Ennis)’s extremely important to what we do."
- Coach Jim Boeheim

Cooney went on to score 18 points — his highest total since Feb. 2 against Notre Dame — as No. 3 Syracuse, losers of five of its last seven games, came out firing in a 77-53 rout of No. 14 Western Michigan.

Everything went right for the Orange. The offense shot 49 percent from the field. Tyler Ennis, the freshman phenom point guard, scored 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and 6 assists. C.J. Fair, the senior sensation, recorded a double-double with 14 points on 6-of-13 shots and 11 rebounds. And Jerami Grant, the athletic sparkplug, electrified the court with his spins and dunks to the tune of 16 points.

But the biggest factor was Cooney, who only shot 28 percent from three-point range in the last 10 games. On Thursday, though, he nailed 4-of-8 from behind in the arc and helped lead the Orange to victory.

“My confidence was never down,” he said. “I had some games where the ball didn’t go in for me, but I made a lot of threes this year and I know I can make threes. It was just about coming out and doing it.”

On defense, the Orange played lights out. SU held Western Michigan to 34.7 percent shooting from the field and forced 13 turnovers, including 11 first-half turnovers. David Brown and Shayne Whittington, WMU’s stars who averaged over 16 points-per-game going into the contest, scored for combined 20 points. David Brown averaged 19.4 points-per-game on his own, and scored less than 10 for the first time all year.

“We wanted to try to contain those guys,” Boeheim said. “We wanted to get out on (Brown), not let him get comfortable.”

Coming out the gate, Syracuse reminded the nation why it was the best team in the country for three weeks. The Orange went on 9-0 run for three minutes early in the first half and continued to extend its lead throughout the half.

“It’s always good when you get some separation early,” Boeheim said. “We made some shots and we made some really good defensive plays.”

Four minutes into the contest Western Michigan already had four turnovers, all which were forced by Syracuse steals. The Orange poured on the pressure, and the Broncos could not respond to the coveted 2-3 zone.

“It was different,” WMU’s Shayne Whittington said. “We’re not really used to it,”

After going up 40-21 at halftime, the Orange came out just as strong in the second half, with big runs to inflate an already impregnable lead. Cooney opened the half with SU’s first six points, followed up by Grant scoring 10 straight points for the Orange. In situations where WMU doubled-team Tyler Ennis, Boeheim said Grant thrived, leading to many of his points.

“It gives Jerami a lot of space to maneuver and he’s very good in those situations,” Boeheim said.

Syracuse’s lead ballooned to a 71-43 lead with less than four to play in the game, and that’s where the Boeheim put in his bench players, ran the clock out, and walked out with a victory.

Individually, Boeheim had nothing but praise for his players. Cooney, he said, is the same player he’s been all year, he just made some shots he's missed in the past. Ennis is one of the main contributors on offense, Boeheim said, and his ability to make threes only increases his deadliness.

“He’s extremely important to what we do,” Boeheim said of Ennis. “He’s been steady all year, he’s a very mature player.”

And the offense, something Boeheim and C.J. Fair believed to be the weak spot in Syracuse’s resume, responded with only its second 70-point showing since the team’s 91-89 overtime victory over Duke Feb. 1.

“Our defense has been pretty good all year,” Boeheim said. “And I think we’re a better offensive team than some of the numbers would show.”

The Orange move on to play the 11th seeded Dayton Flyers Saturday in Buffalo at the First Niagara Center.

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