WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) — Syracuse wasted little time making itself at home in the first game of a weekend road trip through North Carolina, as Trevor Cooney feasted on Wake Forest’s anemic defense.
The senior guard scored 25 points with six 3-pointers, and Syracuse cruised past Wake Forest 83-55 on Saturday for its second-consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference win after beginning conference play at 0-4.
Cooney scored the Orange’s first 11 points and had 19 before the game was ten minutes old. His fifth 3-pointer of the first half gave the Orange (12-7, 2-4) an early 30-11 lead, and the visitors were never seriously challenged, holding a 47-27 lead at halftime.
“I was able to get some open looks, hit some open looks,” Cooney said. “I think that just opened up everything for everyone else. We were able to get the ball inside, we were able to attack, we were able to kick. Offensively, we were able to do what we wanted today.”
Conversely, Wake Forest’s offense never found a rhythm against Syracuse’s signature 2-3 zone defense, shooting 32.6 percent (14 of 43), including a 10 percent (2 of 20) mark from 3-point range. Any hope of a second-half comeback was quashed as the Deacons shot 16.7 percent (2 of 12) immediately following the intermission.
“This was the best defensive game we’ve had all year,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “We just were tremendously active. We had been doing a good job at the 3-point line, but not so much inside. We were much better inside tonight.”
Reserve center Doral Moore, who averaged only 5.7 minutes per game before Saturday’s contest, led Wake Forest (10-7, 1-4) with 10 points. He was the only Deacon to reach double figures.
Their defense fared no better. Wake Forest came into the game 311th nationally (last in the ACC) in scoring defense, allowing 78.8 points per game, and did nothing to improve upon that mark. Syracuse scored from everywhere on the floor, finishing with 32 points in the paint to accompany its 10 3-pointers.
“I don’t know any other way to say it: we took a step back tonight,” Wake Forest coach Danny Manning said. “All the way around, we took a step back.”
While Cooney’s hot start stole the show, he was hardly the only Syracuse player to find success offensively. Tyler Roberson scored 16 points, and Michael Gbinije added 15, his ACC-best 20th-consecutive game in double figures. Tyler Lydon scored 11. The Orange had four players with at least 10 points for a second-straight game.
After a poor start to the season, Syracuse is now 2-1 since Boeheim returned from an NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension. The Orange defeated Boston College 62-40 in their last outing prior to Saturday’s game.
It hardly felt like a road game for the Orange in the latter stages, as Wake Forest fans headed for the exits early and a sizable contingent of Syracuse fans led chants of “Let’s go Orange” that reverberated throughout the arena.
Wake Forest was unable to keep things close despite getting to the foul line with regularity. The Deacons attempted 42 free throws, but made only 25 (59.5 percent). The team came into the game ranked 25th nationally in free throw attempts, averaging 26.9 per game.
Syracuse moved to 4-0 all-time against Wake Forest with the victory. The teams met in the 2001-02 Preseason NIT and have now faced off three times since the Orange joined the ACC.
Cooney continued his assault on Syracuse’s record book with respect to career 3-point field goals. The senior now has 231 3-pointers with the Orange, good for fourth on the school’s all-time list. He needs 18 more to catch third-place Preston Shumpert.
The Orange improved upon what was already an ACC-best average of 8.67 steals per game, tallying 12 against Wake Forest. Syracuse converted those steals into a parade of breakaway dunks in the final minutes, and finished with a 30-15 advantage in points off turnovers.
Syracuse visits No. 9 Duke on Monday.
Wake Forest plays at No. 5 North Carolina on Wednesday.