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College basketball: Syracuse wins final exhibition

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SYRACUSE — Trevor Cooney’s role with the Syracuse men’s basketball team is pretty well defined.

The 6-foot-4 redshirt sophomore from Wilmington, Del., is being counted on to provide some much-needed outside shooting as well as aggressive, tough defense on top of the Orange 2-3 zone defense.

Whether Cooney finally lives up to his own and the team’s expectations may be a big factor in SU’s success during its first Atlantic Coast Conference season.

In Tuesday night’s final exhibition game, won by the Orange 81-46 over Canadian team Ryerson, Cooney showcased the very good and the not-so-fine parts of his game.

He shot just 3-for-9 on 3-pointers, missing his first three, making his next two, and then going 0-for-4 in the second half.

Cooney did contribute three steals and three assists on defense as the Orange held the Rams to just 30 percent shooting.

Cooney said the shot “feels good even though I didn’t shoot well tonight. My rhythm is a lot better. My release has been good and I’m just confident my shooting will improve.”

Cooney played in 39 games last season, his first campaign in uniform after redshirting his freshman season.

Expected to give SU an offensive lift off the bench, he was a major disappointment. He shot just .267 from 3-point range, making 28 of 105, and never found his stroke.

Coming out of high school, Cooney was targeted as a knock-down shooter. So far, he’s yet to prove he can get the done job on a consistent basis.

After a poor start on SU’s four-game Canadian tour in last August, Cooney shot a lot better the last two games of the trip.

He began this season with a 3-for-4 performance behind the arc in the Orange’s first exhibition win over Holy Family last Friday.

And although Cooney’s shooting has been erratic, he has surprised the SU coaches with his defensive energy.

“Even when he isn’t making shots,’’ said SU coach Jim Boeheim, “Trevor gives us a lift on defense. The reason he didn’t play more last year wasn’t because of his defense. It was because he wasn’t making shots. But from what I’ve seen so far, he looks a lot more comfortable.”

Cooney said he sometimes thought too much about his shot last year, knowing that if he missed a couple he’d be back on the bench.

This year, as a starter alongside freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, Cooney feels much more relaxed.

“There’s a lot less pressure than last year,’’ he said. “I always put a lot more pressure on myself than anybody else. But I’ve tried to not be as hard on my game, and just let it come to me a little more.”

Boeheim said because last year’s defensive guard tandem of Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche “was the best duo we’ve ever had, it will be hard to replace them.

“But Tyler and Trevor seem to work well together, and have done a good job on defense so far.”

Senior C. J. Fair scored 18 points, sophomore DaJuan Coleman added 11 and 10 rebounds and junior Rakeem Christmas netted 10 for SU against Ryerson, which made the trip from Toronto.

Boeheim said it was a good game for his team despite the final score.

“They made us work hard on defense with a lot of screening. It was a good exercise all around,” he said.

With the season opener at home against Cornell on Friday night, Boeheim said he sees three main areas the Orange must improve.

“We need to get on the boards a little harder,” he said. “I’d like to see us get up and down the court a little quicker. And we have to know when and how to get the ball inside to our big guys a lot better.”

Ennis, who grew up just outside Toronto and is good friends with many of the Ryerson players, said it’s time to start for real.

“It seems like we’ve already been working a whole season just to prepare for this one,” Ennis said. “Exhibition games like this really help the young guys get used to the atmosphere in the Dome and the pace of the game.”




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