SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Trevor Cooney did it to Notre Dame again.
A year ago, Cooney tied a Syracuse record with nine 3-pointers and scored a career-high 33 points in beating the Irish. He wasn’t as prolific Tuesday, but scored nine of his 11 points in the second half, including a pair of baskets 80 seconds apart late in the game that stalled the ninth-ranked Irish as the Orange won 65-60 Tuesday night.
“Cooney’s two shots, those broke our back,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Cooney had been struggling recently, making just 12 of 52 shots in Syracuse’s last five games, including being hampered by a back injury against Pittsburgh on Saturday in going 0-of-5 from the floor.
“I’ve been playing well but just not shooting well. It happens,” said Cooney, who said his back felt fine Tuesday.
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim scoffed when asked about some people speculating he should have sat Cooney during his slump.
“I’m going to keep Trevor Cooney in the game unless he tells me he can’t play or the doctor tells me he can’t play. Because he makes big plays. He’s been making big plays since he’s been here,” he said.
The Orange (18-10, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) beat the Irish for the sixth time in the last seven games. Notre Dame (24-5, 12-4) dropped to third place in the league standings.
Boeheim thought the Orange had blown their best chance of beating the Irish when Christmas picked up his third foul seven minutes into the game.
Even with Christmas in foul trouble and not playing as well as usual, finishing with 14 points and 12 rebounds in 28 minutes, B.J. Johnson scored 19 points, matching his career high, and the Orange played well enough defensively, holding the Fighting Irish to 35 percent shooting.
“I just think our defense overall was pretty good. We didn’t let them get comfortable and they missed 3s. If they shoot 3-for-22, we should beat them,” Boeheim said.
The Irish trailed by 10 in the first half and by seven with less than 2 minutes left, but managed to cut the lead to 59-57 when Jerian Grant sank a pair of free throws with 39 seconds remaining. The Orange put the game away with a fastbreak dunk by Johnson and a free throw when he was fouled.
The Irish, who entered the game second in the nation in field goal percentage (51 percent), were just 10-of-35 from the floor with 11 minutes left.
“They have some of the best shooters in the country. We just wanted to take them off of their spots and make them take tough ones,” Cooney said.
Johnson, who didn’t score in the first eight league games, said he’s playing with confidence because he knows his teammates believe in him.
“I got some opportunities that allowed me to do what I can do,” he said.
Every time the Irish gained any momentum, the Orange had an answer. Zach Auguste brought the crowd to its feet with a powerful dunk on a rebound of a missed 3 by Grant, but Cooney answered with a jumper. When Colson scored on a pair of free throws when Christmas fouled out with 5:18 remaining and followed that with a basket inside, Cooney hit a long jumper to make it 51-45.
After Auguste and Grant scored to cut the lead to 51-49, but Cooney hit a long 3 and then drove the lane to put the Orange ahead 56-49.
Bonzie Colson led the Irish with 16 points and Grant and Pat Connaughton added 13 points each, although Grant finished 2-of-8 from the field.
“We got some good looks that we didn’t knock down. I think that’s evident with the field goal percentage,” Connaughton said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well and we need a little work against the zone.”
Syracuse: The last time the Orange entered a game ranked lower than the Irish was in 2008, when the 21st-ranked Irish beat unranked Syracuse 94-87 in South Bend. … Christmas became the 59th Syracuse player to score 1,000 points. He has 1,010 career points.
Notre Dame: Connaughton started for the 114th time, moving into fifth place in the all-time list. Chris Thomas holds the record at 128 starts. … The Irish fall to 16-2 at home this season. The other loss was 62-56 to No. 2 Virginia.
Despite the loss, the Irish clinched a double bye in the ACC tournament because North Carolina lost. “Obv iously we did enough work to not play until Thursday,” Brey said.
Syracuse: at No. 4 Duke on Saturday.
Notre Dame: at No. 17 Louisville on March 4.
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