Six days ago, Syracuse fans were left disappointed with an early exit by the Orange from the ACC Tournament, their fifth loss in seven games. This left a big question mark heading into the NCAA tournament as many wondered how the team would play in the postseason. After a 77-53 Thursday afternoon victory over Western Michigan in their first tournament game, a lot of those questions were answered.
The Orange came out quick and got off to a 17-4 lead on the Broncos and took a 40-21 lead into halftime. Trevor Cooney came out and hit two of his first three three-point attempts of the game, Tyler Ennis shot 5-6 in the half and Jerami Grant added six points on three dunks. The team also had seven steals before the break. Their aggressiveness early set the tone for the game and helped them gain a double-digit lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The second half was more of the same, as the Orange didn’t let the Broncos bring the deficit any closer than 16 points. Cooney finished with a team-high 18 points on 5-10 shooting from the field and went 4-8 from three. Both Ennis and Grant had 16 points and C.J. Fair added 14 points and 11 rebounds. Tucker Haymond and Shayne Whittington scored 11 points each to lead the Broncos.
As a team, the Orange shot 49.1 percent from the field and shot 41.2 percent from three, the best they have shot from beyond the arc since their win at Pittsburgh on February 12th (42 percent). They finished with eight steals,forced 13 Bronco turnovers and out rebounded their opponent 41-25, including 13 offensive boards. The Orange scored 19 points off turnovers and 15 off of second chance points.
Trevor Cooney was able to break out of his cold streak in this game, which is a great sign for the Orange. This was the first game he has made at least four threes and shot 50 percent from beyond the arc since he went 9-12 on February 3rd against Notre Dame.
The big lead that the Orange were able to get out to allowed for some of the bench players and walk-ons to get playing time. Tyler Roberson scored two points on 1-3 shooting in nine minutes and Ron Patterson hit two threes in-a-row in the last minute of the game. He finished with six points in four minutes.
The Orange will play again in Buffalo on Saturday in the round of 32 against the South region’s 11th seed Dayton. The Flyers beat Ohio State 60-59 Thursday afternoon. Tip time is TBA.
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