Slumping Cooney The Difference For Syracuse

Syracuse is headlined by a trio of standout players. There’s the first-team All-ACC forward C.J. Fair, the second-team All-ACC and star freshman point guard Tyler Ennis, and the future NBA Draft first-round pick Jerami Grant. But the X-Factor, at least recently, is one of the other guys: Trevor Cooney.

Through Syracuse’s first 25 games — all wins — Cooney was the overlooked shooting guard who kept the Orange rolling. He was a lights-out shooter who provided an outside threat to an offense that leaned heavily on the slashing play of Fair and the post presence of Grant.

When the Orange were undefeated, Cooney was Syracuse’s second-leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. He was shooting 42.9 percent from 3-point range, and he occasionally had breakout games like his 33-point effort against Notre Dame. He was the type of role player who elevated Syracuse to an elite level.

Since game 26, which Syracuse lost to Boston College at home, Cooney has been ice cold. Accordingly, the Orange have suffered as a team.

In the past seven games, Syracuse is 2-5. Cooney’s averaged 5.75 points per game in those seven contests — worse than half of his output beforehand. The guard has only made 10 3-pointers in those seven games despite launching 51 attempts. That makes his 3-point percentage 19.6 after starting the season at 42.9 percent.

Cooney has been Syracuse’s least-productive starter during this stretch. While he used to be second on the team in points, he’s averaged fewer points than Fair, Ennis, Grant and defensive specialist Rakeem Christmas in these seven games.

Without Cooney’s usual self, the Orange’s offense is the opposite of a well-oiled machine. Syracuse scored 70 points per game through the 25-0 start, but that number has dropped to 61.6 points per game since. No other player has been able to fuel Syracuse’s perimeter offense. The team shot 35.7 percent from long range to start the season, but it’s shooting 26.1 percent from three in this 2-5 stretch.

As good as Fair, Ennis and Grant are, Syracuse’s March success will likely depend on Cooney. If he can’t find the stroke he started the season with, the Orange could be on upset alert.