Top-ranked Orange beats Notre Dame
By JOHN KEKIS
AP Sports Writer
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Trevor Cooney scored a career-high 33 points, matching a school record with nine 3-pointers, and top-ranked Syracuse beat Notre Dame 61-55 on Monday night in another matchup of former Big East foes.
Syracuse (22-0, 9-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), which moved to No. 1 this week after its scintillating 91-89 overtime victory over Duke on Saturday night, extended its school record for most consecutive wins to start a season. Notre Dame (12-11, 3-7) has lost seven of nine.
Two days after one of the most emotional wins in Boeheim’s 38 years as head coach, Syracuse played its first game as the nation’s top team since the 2011-12 season. Two years ago, the Orange were unbeaten and ranked No. 1 when they went to South Bend, and Notre Dame upset them 67-58.
It was the eighth time Notre Dame had beaten a No. 1 team and turned out to be Syracuse’s lone loss of the regular season.
Cooney made sure there was no repeat, hitting five 3-pointers in the first half as the Orange gained a 13-point halftime advantage and barely held the Irish at bay in the second half.
Cooney, 9 of 12 from long range, matched the record set by Gerry McNamara in the 2004 NCAA tournament and equaled by Andy Rautins in 2008 and James Southerland in 2012.
Jerami Grant and C.J. Fair, who combined for 54 points against Duke, combined for just 15 as Fair struggled, shooting 2 of 13. Tyler Ennis finished with six points and eight assists.
Garrick Sherman led Notre Dame with 16 points, Steve Vasturia had 13 and Pat Connaughton 11, while Eric Atkins had nine on 3-of-10 shooting.
Notre Dame closed within 38-32 on a 3-pointer from Atkins with 14:19 to play, but Syracuse responded with seven straight points. Grant slammed home a dunk after his block on Sherman and Fair followed with a slam off a Grant miss. Cooney completed the run with his seventh 3-pointer, which tied his personal best.
The Irish have four long-range threats in Atkins, Connaughton, Jackson and Vasturia, who had combined for 127 on the season entering the game, and Notre Dame’s long-range attack came alive in the second half after going 1 of 6 in the first 20 minutes.
Two 3-pointers by Atkins, Vasturia’s three-point play and a slam dunk by Tom Knight moved the Irish back within 43-40 with 8:41 to go.
Grant responded with a spinning drive through the lane and Cooney hit another 3. Grant then fed Cooney for a reverse layup and three-point play and Cooney hit his ninth 3 for a 54-44 lead with 4:14 to play.
Notre Dame refused to wilt, pulling back to 54-49 on Connaughton’s three-point play at 2:52.
Grant’s layup off a feed from Ennis and two free throws by Ennis boosted the lead back to eight, and the Orange made it interesting when Ennis and Fair each missed the front end of 1-and-1s in the final minute.
Atkins missed a floater and Connaughton was off on a 3-point attack in the final seconds.
Against the Syracuse zone, the 6-foot-11 Sherman was the focus of the Irish attack early, and he responded by hitting a pair of hooks and scoring seven of Notre Dame’s first 12 points.
Syracuse attempted only four shots from behind the arc in its win over Duke, preferring to pound it inside. Not on this night, not with Cooney red-hot. He hit four straight 3-pointers in a span of just over six minutes to propel Syracuse to the lead.
“We put ourselves in position to make it interesting,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “We came into this game, and especially if you watch what they did to Duke, beating them up in the paint. You really try to take stuff away in the paint. I thought overall with the guys that destroy you in the paint we did a good job. But we couldn’t do a good job on Cooney. Seven of the nine I think we challenged. He was just in one of those zones, and you’ve got to take your hat off.”
No. 6 VILLANOVA 81
VILLANOVA, Pa. — James Bell hit six 3-pointers and scored 27 points and Darrun Hilliard had 17 to lead No. 6 Villanova to a win over Xavier.
The Wildcats (20-2, 8-1 Big East) never trailed and have won four straight games since a 28-point loss to No. 12 Creighton on Jan. 20.
Bell made 6 of 10 3s was 10 of 14 overall from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds. He scored 21 points in the second half to the Wildcats hit the 20-win mark at the second fastest point in program history. The 2009-10 team opened 20-1.
Semaj Christon led Xavier (15-7, 5-4) with 17 points and Matt Stainbrook had 14. The Musketeers have lost three straight.
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