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Syracuse notes: Cooney comes alive for Orange

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BUFFALO — Trevor Cooney doesn’t usually show much emotion on the court.

Whether the Syracuse sophomore guard is draining 3-point field goals like he did nine times against Notre Dame early this season. Or going just 10-for-51 from behind the arc in his past nine games.

So for him to react like he did early in the second half of Thursday’s NCAA Tournament second-round game against Western Michigan goes against Cooney’s nature.

After hitting a 16-foot jumper to begin the half, Cooney next fired in a 3-pointer from well behind the line and was fouled in the process.

He turned to the SU fans that filled the First Niagara Center and pumped his fist, basically letting off some steam after a month-long shooting slump that coincided with the Orange’s late-season slide.

“My confidence has never really been down,’’ said Cooney, who shot 4-for-8 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 18 points in SU’s 77-53 win. “I’ve made a lot of 3s this year, and I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of continuing to work and getting good looks.’’

SU coach Jim Boeheim said Cooney “is the same guy he’s been all year. He has to take the shots we get for him. The good thing is he’s stayed aggressive. And his poor shooting hasn’t carried over to the rest of his game, which has been very solid.’’

The Delaware native realizes how important his outside shooting is to SU’s success. “We space the floor so much better when I’m making them. If I can draw a couple of defenders, I know the other guys will get some great looks.’’

Boeheim said he liked the way Cooney “also got to the basket (making 4-of-6 free throws) and how he got fouled taking two 3s. He never does that.’’

Boeheim also believes his shooting guard can do much more.

“He has the tools to expand his game,’’ Boeheim said. “Trevor is much too athletic to be just a shooter.’’

Griffin against ‘Cuse

When Dayton assistant coach Allen Griffin saw the draw for the NCAA Tournament, he couldn’t help but wish for what happened here Thursday.

Griffin was on the bench as the No. 11 Flyers upset No. 6 Ohio State 60-59 in a NCAA South Region second-round game.

He then turned scout, viewing his alma mater, Syracuse, which destroyed Western Michigan 77-53 to set up a third-round matchup with the Flyers on Saturday.

“They are mighty impressive,’’ he said before watching the No. 3 Orange dismantle the No. 14 Broncos. “We know we’ll have our hands full, but we thought the same thing against Ohio State and we played really well.’’

Griffin has been an assistant at several places since finishing a stellar four-year career (1998-2001) at SU. His stops have included St. Francis and Providence, before becoming part head coach Archie Miller’s staff at Dayton three years ago.

But Griffin’s heart will always bleed Orange.

“It’s who I am and what they made me,’’ the New York City native said. “I learned most of what I know from coach Boeheim and (assistant) coach (Mike) Hopkins. They taught me all about preparation and work ethic, and I’ve tried to follow their lead in my career.’’

Griffin said he was never prouder than when SU won its first 25 games this season. “They made the country sit up and take notice for a few weeks. What impressed me the most was how hard they fought to win all of those close games. That showed just how special a group this is.’’

Griffin will now help Miller put together a scouting report on the Orange for Saturday.

“They are going to come at us hard and fast,’’ Griffin said. “They give you a much different look than Ohio State, so it will be a challenge. But to be on the bench going against coach Boeheim will be kind of strange. I hope he takes it easy on us.’’

Dayton impresses Boeheim

Boeheim said he watched the Dayton-Ohio State game and found the Flyers to be “very well balanced on offense with a lot of guys that can contribute.’’

The veteran coach also witnessed the Flyers first-hand in Hawaii in November while SU was winning the Maui Invitational. Dayton lost 67-66 to Baylor in the semifinals.

“They realistically were the second best team there,’’ Boeheim said. “I thought we’d be playing them there, but I guess it took 3 more months.’’

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