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Syracuse overpowers Western Michigan

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — Guard Trevor Cooney scored 18 points, making 4-of-8 shots from 3-point range, as third-seeded Syracuse pummeled 14th-seeded Western Michigan, 77-53, on Thursday in the NCAA Tournament second round at First Niagara Center.

The Orange (28-5) advance to a third-round game on Saturday against 11th-seeded Dayton, which upset sixth-seeded, Ohio State, 60-59 in the thrilling opening game.

Forward C.J. Fair had 14 points and 11 rebounds for Syracuse, while sophomore center Jerami Grant scored 16 points and freshman point guard Tyler Ennis added 16 points and six assists.

“We ran into a buzzsaw,” Western Michigan coach Steve Hawkins said. “We made too many mistakes in the first half, and Syracuse will make you pay.”

Western Michigan (23-10) was led by forward Tucker Haymond’s 11 points. Senior guard David Brown, the Broncos’ leading scorer, managed only nine points, 10 below his scoring average.

Syracuse (28-5) jumped to a 17-4 lead before a partisan, orange-clad crowd. The arena is only 2 1/2 hours from Syracuse’s campus.

Four dunks by Grant set the tone in the first half. The Orange forced 11 turnovers in the opening 15 minutes and took a 40-21 lead into halftime.

“Our defense was good from the very beginning,” coach Jim Boeheim said. “And that was a big key for us.”

Grant was slowed late in the season by back spasms, missing the Orange’s upset loss to Georgia Tech on March 4, but showed Thursday that he is healthy again.

Cooney entered the game in a 10-for-51 funk from 3-point range. Not coincidentally, Syracuse limped to a 2-5 finish after a 25-0 start that put the Orange on top of the national polls.

“My confidence never faded,” Cooney said. “I know I can make 3’s. It’s about going out there and doing it.”

Grant’s one-handed monster dunk with 15:23 remaining gave Syracuse a 50-28 lead. That came after Cooney nailed a 3-pointer while being fouled. The sophomore made the free throw for the rare four-point play.

Cooney was taken out with Syracuse ahead 52-30 with 13:53 remaining, but returned five minutes later.

Syracuse outrebounded Western Michigan, 39-25.

Western Michigan had won 12 of its last 13 games, including a 98-77 romp over Toledo in the Mid-American Conference tournament championship game last weekend.

NOTES: Syracuse improved to 61-36 in 36 NCAA appearances. The Orange have reached the Final Four five times (four under coach Jim Boeheim), winning the national championship in 2003. … Steve Hawkins is in his 11th season, making him the most-tenured coach in the Mid-American Conference. One of his first jobs was as chauffeur for legendary UCLA coach John Wooden. … Senior G David Brown technically is a senior but missed a large part of two seasons following knee surgeries. Hawkins said the Broncos will contemplate petitioning the NCAA to give Brown a sixth year, but the MAC Tournament MVP might not be interested. He graduated last semester. “It’s something I’ll have to consider,” he said. … Syracuse has lost to a double-digit seed four times in NCAA history: No. 12 Texas A&M in 2006, No. 13 Vermont in 2005, No. 15 Richmond in 1991 and No. 11 Rhode Island in 1988. On Saturday, the Orange face 11th-seeded Dayton.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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