SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The No. 1 college basketball team in the country was a one-man show Monday.
Hours after Syracuse ascended to the top ranking in the Associated Press poll, guard Trevor Cooney dropped in a career-high 33 points to carry the Orange past Notre Dame 61-55 in front of 25,850 fans in the Carrier Dome.
Cooney sank nine 3-pointers, tying the school record held by James Southerland, Andy Rautins and Gerry McNamara. He missed just three attempts from beyond the arc and finished 11-for-15 from floor overall.
“I got into a rhythm early,” Cooney said. “To shoot like that, you have to get into a good rhythm. I just kind of got going, and guys found me.”
Syracuse needed every bit of Cooney’s offense. No other Syracuse player reached double figure in points, and the team’s leading scorer, forward C.J. Fair, was held to six points on 2-of-13 shooting. Overall, Syracuse shot just 21-for-47 (44.7 percent) from the floor.
“Trevor must have got the message early that we’re not going to play well and he had to make shots,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “It was just one of those games where we were not sharp at all.”
The Orange (22-0, 9-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) topped the Fighting Irish (12-11, 3-7) in the first meeting as ACC foes between the former Big East rivals.
Center Garrick Sherman paced Notre Dame with 16 points, and guard Steve Vasturia added 13.
Forty-eight hours earlier, the Orange held off Duke 91-89 in an epic showdown in the Dome. Notre Dame tested Syracuse for signs of a letdown, and the Orange struggled to adjust. Syracuse enjoyed playing at a fast pace against the Blue Devils, but the Irish slowed the game down and focused on denying the inside games of Fair and forward Jerami Grant (nine points).
“We just did not adjust well,” Boeheim said. “You have to find ways to win these games, and we were able to do that.”
Irish coach Mike Brey said, “We put ourselves in a position to make it interesting. With the guys who destroy you in the paint, I think we did a pretty good job. We just couldn’t do a good enough job on Cooney.”
Cooney shredded the Irish’s zone in the first half and found enough of the right answers against Notre Dame’s man-to-man in the second to keep Syracuse safe.
Notre Dame trailed by 10 points at halftime but crawled within 43-40 with 8:46 remaining in the second half. Grant sank a jumper with 6:40 remaining, and Cooney hit a 3-pointer with 5:49 left to boost the margin to 48-40.
“I just wanted to be aggressive today, no matter what it was,” Cooney said. “I just have to continue to do that.”
Fair then stole the ball and dished to Cooney for layup. Cooney was fouled on the play and made the free throw for a 51-41 Orange advantage with 5:05 left.
Vasturia countered with a 3-pointer to pull the Irish within 51-44, but Cooney sank another trey with 4:29 left to pump the difference back up to 10.
The Irish didn’t get closer than five points for the rest of the game.
“You have to play the percentages,” Sherman said. “You don’t want Fair and Grant dribbling down the lane all night, but he (Cooney) made us pay tonight. Props to him.”
The Orange took a 31-18 lead into halftime, appropriately scoring the final points when Cooney swished a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Cooney, who scored 17 points in the first 20 minutes, heated up to spark a 13-0 Orange run. He sank a 3-pointer to tie the score at 12, then hit another a little more than two minutes later for a 15-12 cushion.
“It was his half,” Boeheim said. “He kept us to where we had the lead.”
Cooney’s marksmanship sent the Orange ahead 18-12 with 7:49 left before the break, and he mixed in a 2-pointer with 6:05 left for an eight-point margin. Fair joined the fun with a jumper that extended the lead to 10.
Syracuse made six of nine first-half 3-point attempts, with Cooney going 5-for-7 from long range.
Boeheim knows what is coming his way next for the sophomore.
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