Trevor Cooney made his presence known last night at the Carrier Dome, leading Syracuse to a 70-57 win against Florida State, putting further distance between him and his cold start to the season.
Cooney finished with an impressive 28 points on 7-of-11 from 3-point land. It was the most 3-pointers he had since he connected on nine against Notre Dame last year.
“When I am making shots,” Cooney said, “it extends the defense and we are able to get some easy ones.”
The season didn’t start this way for Cooney. In Syracuse’s first six games of the season, he was just 9-33 (27 percent) from beyond the arc. That included a game against Holy Cross where he was 0-4 from the 3-point line and 1-7 for the game.
But Cooney finally broke out in a 68-65 loss to Michigan on Dec. 2. He was 4-9 from downtown, and that game began a steady rise in his outside shooting percentage. Last night’s performance puts him at 42-108 (38.9 percent) for the season, 33-75 (44 percent) since the Michigan game.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim insisted last night that nothing has changed in Cooney. If anything, Cooney has become even more of a target for opposing teams, as evidenced by a snippet from Georgia Tech’s practice shown earlier this week. During that clip aired on ESPNU, head coach Brian Gregory was shown telling his players to attack and focus on Cooney.
Florida State head coach Leonard Hamilton had the same to say about Cooney.
“He is the anchor and when you have a guy like him who is capable of being as productive offensively as him, you have to consistently know where he is,” Hamilton said. “It takes away from playing and defense when you have to give him so attention.”
Said assistant coach Mike Hopkins: “Wherever he goes, it’s the most amount of traffic. It’s like one of those car commercials everyone’s looking at the car. He helps everyone else. Even if he’s not shooting the ball he’s shifting the defense. He’s the great wide receiver so they’ve got double coverage on him and that’s going to leave the tight end wide open.”
Cooney responded when Syracuse needed him most.
With a little over 11 minutes left in the first half, freshman wing Chris McCullough appeared to injure his knee on a fast break, and had to be helped off the court into the locker room.
He didn’t return.
With SU’s elite freshman out of the game, Cooney picked up the slack, burying a 3-pointer on the following possession. After Michael Gbinije followed suit on the next play, Cooney snagged a steal and fed the ball to Joseph for an easy layup.
“He is a good player. He has been that player since I can remember,” Boeheim said. “It’s the way he has been playing all year since the beginning.”
Cooney was rewarded with a standing ovation when he was subbed out with a minute left in the game. It appears the Carrier Dome crowd, too, has put Cooney’s slow start in its distant memory.
“This was really encouraging,” Boeheim said. “It was one of our best offensive games since the first half of the Virginia Tech game.”