Syracuse basketball should get used to close games in ACC

Cooney had a poor shooting afternoon

Get used to it.

That’s what Syracuse head basketball coach Jim Boeheim said after the Orange rallied for a 49-44 win against Miami in their ACC debut in front of 21,839 fans at the Carrier Dome on Saturday.

Get used to teams guarding the Orange like they did and limiting them to shooting just 36.2 percent from the field. Get used to close games. Get used to life in the ACC.

Cooney had a poor shooting afternoon

“Nobody listens until you get into a game like this or you lose a game. We’ve got to get better offensively,” Boeheim said. “You have to look at reality. We’ve got to get better offensively. We’re going to see a lot of games where people are going to guard us like they did, and they’re going to take time off the clock and we have to be prepared for those games. There will be some games with teams we’ll be up and down with. That’s the beauty of being in the league—you’re going to have different styles. In my mind, we need to get better offensively. I think we are getting better defensively, but offensively we need to get better.”

» Related: Syracuse rallies late to defeat Miami

Saturday’s game marked the first time the Orange won a game in which it did not score 50 points since beating Pittsburgh 49-46 in overtime on Feb. 29, 2004. The last time Syracuse didn’t reach 50 points in a regulation victory was against Kent State on Dec. 1, 1962, 36-35.

Syracuse’s 36.3 percent shooting from the field was its second lowest output of the season. The Orange shot 35.3 percent against St. Francis. Sophomore Trevor Cooney, the ACC’s second best 3-point shooter, came in making 50 percent of this shots beyond the arc. But he was 2-for-12, his worst 3-point shooting performance of the season. Cooney managed to finish with 11 points (2-for-12 from the field and 5-for-6 from the charity stripe).

“I think Trevor (Cooney) got some looks, but he’s not going to make them every night,” Boeheim remarked. “Every great shooter has some off nights. We’ve been spoiled because he hasn’t really had an off-shooting night yet this season.”

Cooney scored eight of his 11 points in the first half as the Orange led 25-21 at the break.

Miami outscored Syracuse 14-4 in the first seven minutes of the second half to take a 35-29 lead with 12:23 left in the game. It was the Hurricanes first lead since the 15:04 mark of the opening half.

Senior C.J. Fair ended the scoring drought with a baseline 3, followed by a free throw by Cooney, to cut the lead to 35-33 with 9:42 left. Miami pushed its lead to 40-35 with 6:11 left in the game before Syracuse’s game-winning run.

SU scored the next eight points to go ahead 43-40 with just 3:20 left. After a layup by James Kelly cut Miami’s deficit to one, freshman Tyler Ennis scored on a layup and he and Cooney sealed the Orange’s first ACC win with two free throws each in the final minute.

Fair scored a game-high 15 points to go along with six rebounds. Ennis added 10 points, seven assists and three steals. Junior Rakeem Christmas grabbed a game-best seven rebounds and added eight points. Christmas was also instrumental down the stretch in the win.

Christmas made two key offensive plays in crunch time. He hit a lay-up with 7:19 lead to cut the Miami lead to one (36-35) and a jumper in the paint with 5:55 to go that cut another Miami lead to 40-37.

But the biggest play for Christmas was when he grabbed a rebound with 56 seconds to go following a missed 3-pointer from Miami’s Garrius Adams that would have tied the game at 45.

“Rakeem got a big offensive rebound for us to end their run, and then offensively we made a couple big plays down the stretch,” Boeheim said. “Our defense really stepped up too. Rakeem took away the lob, and then we really did a good job against their perimeter guys. I thought we really played exceptional defense on their perimeter guys during that run where we got the lead.”

Added Boeheim: “I think we’ve all got resolve. We have good resolve on this team, I have no doubt about that. We’re not always the best offensive group, but we have good resolve.”

» Related: Instant analysis of Syracuse’s win

The Orange travel to Virginia Tech on Tuesday. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m.

“Well I think everybody is good, we learned that today,” Boeheim said when asked to evaluate the Hokies. “We knew that before and now I think everyone knows that. Nothing is going to be easy home or away. I don’t think it matters where you play. They’re a good team – they beat Miami – they’re a good basketball team.”

Welcome to the ACC. Get used to it.

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About Judy Salamone 30 Articles
For 18 years, Judy was Editor and Publisher of The Big Orange/The Juice print publication. Judy is currently a freelance editor and writer and has covered Syracuse University athletics since 1988. She is a graduate of Le Moyne College, in Syracuse, New York.