Cornell scares No. 8 Syracuse before losing 82-60
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- When Cornell's Nolan Cressler scored his 20th point of the first half to give the Big Red an unimaginable 14-point lead over No. 8 Syracuse, the Carrier Dome faithful were in disbelief.
"Everybody sleeps on the Ivy League," Cressler said. "Year in and year out, we compete with the best teams in the country. Whenever we're playing our type of basketball, we can play with anybody and beat anybody."
The Big Red surely did that, gaining a 36-22 lead when Orange freshman Tyler Roberson was called for goaltending on a shot by Cressler with 4:11 left in the opening half. Syracuse closed within six at halftime and went on an 18-5 run early in the second half to win 82-60 behind Trevor Cooney's career-high 27 points.
Cornell was 13-18 last season and fourth-year head coach Bill Courtney has had to replace four starters. Returning first-team All-Ivy forward Shonn Miller continues to recover from offseason surgery to his right shoulder that sidelined him in the preseason, but Cressler more than made up for his absence with a career-high 23 points.
"Obviously, that was a very good first half for us," Courtney said. "We did a lot of things we planned to do and did a fair job on the backboards. The whole first half our guys were extremely excited. None of our guys have had a moment, period. All these guys are basically in new roles."
Cressler has his moment. He hit 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, converted a three-point play, and hit from the wing before forcing the goaltending call. At that point, the sophomore guard had just two fewer points than the eighth-ranked team in the nation and only two off his career high.
"We were excited," Cressler said. "Everybody had us as the underdog. To be up by 14 was exciting. We had all the momentum."
Syracuse, playing its first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, leads the all-time series against Cornell 88-31 and has won 34 straight against the Big Red. It was the first game between the teams in three years, but the Big Red, 5-68 all-time against teams ranked in the Top 25, was up for the challenge, outrebounding the much bigger Orange 19-16 in the first half.
Syracuse turned the tables in the second. Cooney scored eight points in the surge and nabbed two steals, finishing the second with a court-long dash and two-handed dunk to put the Orange up 60-48 with 11:38 to go and they steadily pulled away.
"I got the first couple to go in and the game kind of flowed from there," said Cooney, who finished 10 of 12 from the field, 7 of 8 from long range "My teammates found me in great spots. I was getting my feet set and just knocked down shots. When you hit three or four in a row, that's when you know the game is coming to you."
C.J. Fair finished with 19 points for Syracuse while the Orange's heralded freshman point guard Tyler Ennis was 0 for 6 from the field but had a team-high eight rebounds and seven assists with two turnovers.
Sophomore forward Jerami Grant, expected to be a key contributor this season for the Orange, warmed up with the team before the game but did not play. He watched in street clothes from the bench. Coach Jim Boeheim would not say why he was kept out of the game but that he would play in the next game at home Tuesday night against Fordham.
Cressler managed just three points in the second half after going 7 for 11 in the first.
"In the second half we made some adjustments defensively, took away their high-post pass, got to the shooters better," Boeheim said. "When you don't move on defense, it doesn't matter what kind of defense you play."
Syracuse set a school record last season for 3-point field goal percentage defense, holding opponents to 28.4 percent. But that was with the imposing backcourt duo of lanky 6-foot-5 point guard Michael Carter-Williams and 6-4 Brandon Triche, who routinely forced shooters beyond their comfort range.
Carter-Williams is starring in the NBA now and Triche graduated, leaving the 6-2 Ennis and the 6-4 Cooney to assume the rigors at the top of the Orange's 2-3 zone. The Big Red finished 10 of 32 on 3s.
Syracuse won the last meeting with Cornell 78-58, holding the Big Red to 1-of-12 shooting from beyond the arc in taking a 21-point halftime lead. That was a distant memory on this night as Cressler, a 40 percent shooter from long range last season, put on a one-man show.
But Cooney hit three 3-pointers in a span of just over 4 minutes to key a late first-half rally, his last from the right wing on a pass from Michael Gbinije narrowing the deficit to 36-30 with 64 seconds left.
Cornell hit 7 of 16 (43.8 percent) from beyond the arc in the half as each team finished 13 of 29 from the field.
Cornell committed five fouls in the first 3 minutes of the second half and Cooney's fifth 3 gave Syracuse a 42-40 lead with 16:54 left. After Robert Hatter's 3 gave the Big Red the lead again, Fair hit a follow off a miss by Ennis and seconds later drew a charge on Cressler, his third foul of the game as Syracuse began to assume command.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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