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Cooney has 27; No. 8 Syracuse beats Cornell 82-60

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JOHN KEKIS | November 8, 2013 09:15 PM EST | AP

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) — Trevor Cooney had seven 3-pointers and 27 points, both career highs, and No. 8 Syracuse beat pesky Cornell 82-60 on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.

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, building a lead that ballooned to as many as 14 in the first half behind sharpshooting Nolan Cressler.

Syracuse turned the tables with an 18-5 run early in the second to take control. 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.

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.

Cressler finished with a career-high 23 points for Cornell but managed just three points in the second half after going 7 for 11 and scoring 20 in the first.

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 in the first half.

Cressler hit 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, converted a three-point play, hit from the wing and forced a goaltending call on Orange freshman Tyler Roberson to give Cornell a stunning 36-22 lead with 4:11 left. 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.

Cooney led the Orange back, hitting three 3-pointers in a span of just over 4 minutes, his last from the right wing on a pass from Michael Gbinije narrowing the deficit to 36-30 as the Big Red took a 38-32 halftime lead. 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.

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.