Syracuse's Tyler Lydon, left, looks to pass the ball under pressure from Texas Southern's Malcolm Riley, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Syracuse, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Nick Lisi)
Nick Lisi
December 27, 2015

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Decent probably won't cut it when Syracuse opens Atlantic Coast Conference play, but ''decent'' was how guard Trevor Cooney described the Orange's latest victory.

Michael Gbinije had 15 points to lead five Syracuse players in double figures in an 80-67 win over Texas Southern on Sunday, the team's final tune-up before the Orange begins conference play on Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

''It was decent at times,'' said Cooney, who scored 14 points, including 4-for-8 shooting from the 3. ''Offensively, it was good, defensively it was good at times, but for us to beat better teams and conference teams we have to be better all the time.''

Dajuan Coleman had 14 points to match his career high for the Orange, Tyler Lydon added 13 and Malachi Richardson 10, all in the second half as Syracuse (10-3) completed its nonconference schedule.

Derrick Griffin led the Tigers (1-10) with 20 points, making all nine shots he attempted, and pulled down nine rebounds. Jerron Martin, averaging 3.4 points a game and 24 percent from 3 entering the game, had 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. Malcolm Riley had 13 points.

Cooney, a fifth-year senior, didn't sound all that encouraged when asked if his team was ready for the rigors of ACC play.

''It was just a lot of easy baskets that they (Texas Southern) had, and they had a guy (Martin) shooting 23 percent who made six 3s,'' Cooney said. ''I guess it happens, but maybe we can take away more. We have to bring more intensity and our rebounding (has to improve). For us to be a really good team, we have to be better defensively.''

Interim head coach Mike Hopkins echoed Cooney.

''They really took it to us. We're trying to get the point across of the importance of defense,'' said Hopkins, who has three more games to coach before Jim Boeheim returns from his nine-game suspension. ''We had some breakdowns and we have to get better.

''You're not there to trade baskets. You're there to get stops and compete on the defensive end. We'll keep hammering at that. I wasn't too happy with our overall defense,'' said Hopkins, now 4-2 as head man.

Syracuse went on an 18-8 blitz to break a tie and close out the first half with a 40-30 lead.

Richardson, held scoreless in the first half on zero of three shooting, scored the first seven points of the second as the Orange extended to a 47-30 lead with 18:01 to go and cruised.

The Orange had 14 steals and scored 18 points off Texas Southern's 15 turnovers.

''Too many turnovers,'' Texas Southern coach Mike Davis said. ''We gave up 18 points off of turnovers. I know our record is 1-10, but we were 1-9 last year before we beat Michigan State. This (SU) team is definitely a Top 25 team for sure. I thought we gave great effort today.''

Texas Southern had no trouble scoring inside in the first half. Griffin scored on four alley-oops, including a one-handed slam, and a layup as the Tigers hung around much of the first 20 minutes.

A 3-pointer by Martin tied the score at 22 with 4:53 to go.

Syracuse then went on its game-changing surge. Gbinije and Tyler Roberson had eight and four points, respectively, to spur the Orange.

Syracuse's 3-point woes continued in the first half as the Orange made just one of its first nine from long range before making four of five, two by Gbinije. The Orange shot just 8 of 26 from 3, 31 percent.

Cooney said the Orange would continue to attack from the perimeter despite its recent woes.

''That's what we're going to continue to do. We've got to take those shots,'' he said. ''Those are the shots we have to take and we've got to make.''

''These guys can all shoot the ball,'' Hopkins said. ''That 3-ball is the great equalizer.''

Sunday's matchup was just the second between the two schools.

TIP-INS

Texas Southern: The Tigers entered Sunday's game hitting 32.5 percent from the 3. ... Texas Southern ranks 300th out of 352 Division 1 teams in defensive efficiency. ... The Tigers hail from Houston, but have yet to play a single game in the Texas city this season.

Syracuse: Richardson made 15 of 39 3-point attempts in the Orange's first six games. In the team's last seven games, he is just 7 of 45. ... The Orange has allowed five teams to shoot better than 30 percent from beyond the arc, including Texas Southern, which shot 42 percent. ... Trevor Cooney is fourth on SU's list for career 3-pointers with 218.

UP NEXT

Texas Southern is at Baylor on Tuesday.

Syracuse visits Pittsburgh Wednesday night.

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