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Cooney battles through sprain in back, heads into matchup with shoddy Notre Dame 3-point defense

first_imgNotre Dame’s greatest weakness is Trevor Cooney’s strength. But right now, Cooney’s greatest weakness is the sprain that Syracuse team trainer Brad Pike said the guard has in his back.The No. 9 Fighting Irish (24-4, 12-3 Atlantic Coast), which hosts Syracuse (17-10, 8-6) at 8 p.m. on Tuesday in South Bend, Indiana, is the worst team in the ACC at defending 3-pointers. It makes completing the task of beating UND at the Purcell Pavilion — something only No. 2 Virginia has done this year — all the more dependent on Cooney’s health and shooting.“We’re definitely a better team when Trevor’s healthy and on the court with us,” junior forward Michael Gbinije said after SU’s 65-61 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. “We still had opportunities to win tonight and didn’t capitalize on them.”On Monday’s ACC coaches’ teleconference, Jim Boeheim said Cooney was likely to play against the Irish.Cooney subbed out on Saturday with 15:17 left in the game. And with about 13 minutes remaining he was behind the Orange bench with Pike, before jogging off to the locker room.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThere, they tried to loosen up his back, Pike said after the game. Pike also called the injury an “insidious onset.” Boeheim said Cooney’s back had been stiff for a couple days but that the guard said it was all right.He re-entered the game for Kaleb Joseph with 9:19 left and was subbed out for Ron Patterson with 2:24 to play. Cooney didn’t shoot in that span and finished the game 0-for-5 from the field and 0-for-4 from 3. He is now 12-of-52 from the field in the Orange’s last five games and 8-of-38 from beyond the arc in that same span.Cooney said his back hurt and that it did affect his lateral movement, but it didn’t affect his shot in the first half.“It loosened up a little bit today,” Cooney said on Saturday, “just got to keep working on it and getting ready for Tuesday.”Cooney practiced on Sunday, Boeheim said, and the coach said he couldn’t see why the guard wouldn’t practice again later that day.And while Syracuse coped with a combined 20 points from B.J. Johnson and Ron Patterson on Saturday, Cooney will be especially needed against UND.The arc may provide SU’s best chance of victory. Notre Dame allows opponents to shoot an average of 34.8 percent from 3.Cooney has burnt Notre Dame before. He dropped 33 points with 9-of-12 3-point shooting against the Fighting Irish in a 61-55 SU Orange win on Feb. 3 of last year.He faded down the stretch of Syracuse’s late-season collapse last year and has been played even more in this campaign. He’s played 97.5 percent of Syracuse minutes in ACC play and 93 percent of the Orange’s minutes on the season, according to KenPom.com as of Monday afternoon. The latter figure ties him for 10th in the country in percentage of minutes played.He has played a higher percentage of his team’s minutes than any other player in the ACC. Boston College’s Olivier Hanlan is next with 92.6 percent of minutes played for the Eagles. Duke’s Quinn Cook has played in 88.8 percent of the Blue Devils’ minutes, according to KenPom.com.SU players said their roles don’t change with Cooney off the floor. But the game does get harder in that all the other players on a team with an already thin bench have to increase their production.Said senior forward Rakeem Christmas: “When Trev’s out of the game, we all got to step it up.” Comments Published on February 24, 2015 at 12:15 am Contact Jacob: [email protected] | @Jacob_Klinger_ Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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