Syracuse regroups behind Cooney and Christmas
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Trevor Cooney has given Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim something his Orange desperately needed - a solid game.
The redshirt junior guard from Delaware scored a season-high 25 points on Sunday evening and assisted on senior Rakeem Christmas's winning basket in a 71-69 victory over Louisiana Tech.
The win snapped a rare two-game slide in the nonconference portion of the schedule for Syracuse (6-3) and couldn't have come at a better time. The Orange visit No. 7 Villanova (10-0) on Saturday.
''I know he (Boeheim) is happy with the win, but he's looking at the bigger picture,'' Cooney said. ''He wants us to improve. The game shouldn't have been that close.''
Cooney, the team's main threat from long range, entered the game shooting just 28.3 percent (13 of 46) on 3-pointers. But after missing all four 3s he attempted in a home loss to St. John's a week earlier, Cooney hit 4 of 8 against the pressing Bulldogs, and 11 of his points came in situations when Syracuse was trailing or leading by just one.
''Trevor played the way he has to play,'' Boeheim said. ''He was a player. He wasn't just a shooter. He got to the basket, he drove, he made plays. That's a huge thing for us.''
Cooney also scored four points that halted Louisiana Tech runs and did not commit a turnover while playing every minute of the game.
''From the start I wanted to be aggressive. I wanted the ball and I made some good things happen,'' Cooney said. ''I've got to continue to do that.''
Still, Syracuse squandered a 10-point lead in the closing minutes before eking out the win. And the Orange's 17 turnovers, several in transition and unforced by the Tech pressure, provided more than enough fodder for Boeheim to vent.
Sophomore Tyler Roberson lost the ball once while trying to corral a pass with one hand, and Roberson, B.J. Johnson and freshman Kaleb Joseph combined to commit four turnovers in the final 10 minutes.
''We're learning, I hope. I don't see it, but I hope we will learn,'' Boeheim said. ''There's not much time left. Nothing is going to happen magically, but I know I cannot coach catching the basketball at this stage.
''Whatever I thought about this team, they're not. This team is nowhere near being a good basketball team. Anywhere. I've never said that since I've been here. Not that they couldn't be, but they're not.''
Junior swingman Michael Gbinije was limited to 14 minutes against Louisiana Tech because of a back injury, and Boeheim gave Roberson 33 minutes of playing time. Roberson responded with 14 points on 7-of-13 shooting and snared 17 rebounds, 11 on the offensive glass. All were career highs.
That's a good thing heading to the stiffest test of the young season as Syracuse tries to avert a fourth nonconference loss. That's happened just once in Boeheim's tenure, and he's in his 39th season.
''It's a big confidence-builder going into Villanova. I'm looking forward to building on it,'' Roberson said. ''I just want to bring energy every game and make things happen.''
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