Men's Basketball

Cooney struggles shooting, but remains optimistic; Coleman, Christmas combine to form formidable inside tandem

After the game, after all the clanks and rim-outs and the one puzzling air ball, Trevor Cooney was unaware of just how many times he had come up empty from behind the 3-point arc.

“I continued to shoot today,” Cooney said after Syracuse’s 87-51 win over Colgate. “I don’t know how many 3s I missed today, but it didn’t affect me. I just shoot it. That’s all I can do.”

And on Sunday, all that resulted in was miss after miss after miss.

Cooney went 0-for-7 from beyond the arc against Colgate, failing to connect on a variety of open looks at different spots on the floor. He finished the game with five points on 1-for-8 shooting, his lone highlight coming on a tough and-one layup that was somewhat of an aberration following his horrific outside shooting.

Cooney said he forced his first attempt of the game, a 3-pointer from the right wing in transition roughly one minute after he took the floor for the first time. But after that it was simply an off night for a player who rarely misses in practice.

“He’s a shooter, he’s just got to keep shooting,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’ll make some.”

It’s been a bit of a rough start to his career for Cooney, who redshirted last year due to Syracuse’s deep rotation of guards. He shot 2-for-5 in the home opener against Wagner, but he has since missed his last 10 attempts against Princeton and Colgate.

James Southerland has taken Cooney’s spot as the sharpshooter in those two games, nailing four 3-pointers in each of them.

But Cooney was anything but worried in the locker room after the game, saying he will continue to shoot until this mini slump is over and his typical potency from beyond the arc returns.

“When I miss it, I know what I did wrong — if it was my form or this and that or the ball just went in and out when it was a good shot,” Cooney said. “I forced the first one I had today, and then I had a couple go in and out.”

Coleman and Christmas flex their muscle inside

As the largest Syracuse player watched his 12-foot baseline jumper nestle into the net for the opening basket of the game, the flashbacks to Fab Melo were inevitable.

The former SU center and last year’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year slowly expanded his offensive game as the season progressed, flashing a jump shot from time to time that showcased his soft touch.

Only this year it was DaJuan Coleman, the 6-foot-9-inch, 288-pound freshman whose jump shot fell through on Sunday against Colgate. And it was the start of a big day for Coleman and frontcourt partner Rakeem Christmas. The two combined for 22 points and 16 rebounds in SU’s win over the Raiders, impressing head coach Jim Boeheim in the process.

“Our big guys have played well,” Boeheim said. “They’re going to keep getting better. I like them, I like the way they’re playing.”

On Sunday that meant taking advantage of an undersized Colgate front line, but Coleman feels this game and Syracuse’s other early-season matchups with smaller opponents provide a chance for the Orange big men to try new moves and plays before Big East play comes around.

“I think it’s just getting us ready for the big games we’ve got,” Coleman said. “Just getting good touches down low, we’re working on our moves against other opponents. I think it’s going to get us ready for the next game.”

He said since his first day on campus he and Christmas have worked on high-low combinations that Christmas and Melo ran last season. And that proved effective when Coleman muscled the ball up and in over Colgate’s John Brandenburg off a feed from Christmas at the top of the key late in the second half.

And Christmas added another acrobatic alley-oop that seems to be a staple of every game so far this season. He caught a lob from Michael Carter-Williams well away from the rim and corralled the pass over a defender to lay it up and in.

“I thought DaJuan was much better around the basket,” Boeheim said. “Rakeem was good. I think it was just a good opportunity for those guys to get some time.”

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