Redshirt-sophomore Trevor Cooney's level of importance rose from last season to this season, as continues to be at a heightened state.
In the event of foul trouble, Cooney has become imperative in being able to keep the Orange moving in a positive direction when a substitution is needed.
"When one of the guards picks up fouls, I mean, I'm the next guard that's gonna come in, and if I can come in and produce, then it's just gonna help our team out, really," said Cooney. "And I thought I did a good job of that [versus Villanova]."
Cooney connected on back-to-back three-pointers in the team's last match against the Villanova Wildcats to extend Syracuse out to their biggest lead of the game, at 14 points.
Before those two makes, Cooney had missed four straight attempts from long range. Despite his struggles from distance throughout the season, Cooney continues to believe in himself, targeting the rim after misses.
"I mean, you just gotta keep believing in yourself and it's easy to believe in yourself when you got [Jim] Boeheim believing in you and you got guys on your team believing in you. So that makes it a lot easier," Cooney expressed.
Cooney has taken at least one attempt from beyond the arc in all but two of Syracuse's 17 contests so far this season. But, he has only connected in eight of those 17 games. He has made multiple three-pointers in seven of those eight games.
With his struggles, at times, from distance, Cooney has been able to help the Orange through his play at the top of the 2-3 zone. Cooney has had at least one steal in 11 of Syracuse's 17 matches, including one in the most recent match versus Villanova that ended with Cooney's first make from three-point range.
"He's really passionate about his 2-3 defense and," Cooney stated, referring to Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. "I mean, we work on it a lot. And coming out and just getting out to shooters and make sure it doesn't get to the high post. And if I can come out and do that and not make mistakes on defense, then that's just gonna help our team."
Now more than ever, Cooney is needed, with the bench becoming shorter in the absence of Orange sixth-man senior James Southerland.
Along with the reserves being condensed, Syracuse also loses a three-point threat with Southerland currently held off the court.
When asked if he feels increased pressure in the absence of Southerland, Cooney remarked, "Not increased pressure at all. I mean, it's not gonna change my play. I mean, I'm just here [to] come out and play hard, no matter who's there. So if I can do that, then I'm gonna help this team out."
Foul trouble, fresh legs, deep-threat necessity, and positive defensive pressure all make Cooney a much-needed contributor for the Orange moving forward.
He will get his next opportunity to show if he is up to the challenge when the Orange take on the top-ranked team in the nation, the Cardinals of Louisville, in a road match on Saturday, January 19th, at 4pm ET.