Redshirt-freshman guard Trevor Cooney has seen small amounts of time on the court during numerous games in his first season on the court, which is no surprise in how Syracuse Orange head coach Jim Boeheim plays his first-year student-athletes.
In Syracuse's Sweet 16 match against the Indiana Hoosiers, Cooney played in four of the 40 allotted minutes.
But when he was on the floor, he was focuses to help the team in any way he can, leading to the reality of his worth outside of mere long-range shooting. After a turnover by fellow guard, senior Brandon Triche, Cooney would steal the ball back to negate an opportunity for the Hoosiers to score. When asked about his early steal, Cooney said that he was, "Just coming out and playing hard on defense, I mean, that's what everyone was doing. That's what we need to do. Coming off the bench, if you can just come out here and keep the intensity going, it carries it through to the other guys and kinda keeps our run going. So, I mean, that's what our job is, Jerami [Grant] and I and Baye [Keita] coming in and just have a spark and I thought that we did a good job of that."
Forwards, junior Baye Keita and freshman Jerami Grant, like Cooney, added positives to the Orange in their time on the floor. Keita continued his success at the free throw line, making three of four, while grabbing three rebounds, blocking two shots, and stealing the ball away from Indiana as well, with two takeaways. Grant dunked home an assist from fellow forward, senior James Southerland, making both of his attempts from the charity stripe, grabbed three rebounds and blocked a shot.
Cooney and the rest of the Orange bench helped keep the team's defense strong against the east bracket's top seed. Syracuse had seven steals in the first half alone and finished with 12.
"It was big for us," Cooney shared. " I thought our zone was unbelievable [versus Indiana]. Just staying active. We were all moving together as a team. We were talking. We were communicating. It was fun to be out there for a little bit and just play with these guys."
"Defensively, it was just a clinic really, a 2-3 [zone] clinic, I guess," Cooney added. "We were just moving, our hands were up. We were getting deflections, getting steals, and it really led to points, easy points for us. We were able to get going from there."
In the 30-plus minutes that Cooney was not on the floor, he expressed, "I was just being a good teammate on the bench. This is exciting. This is [an] exciting run. I mean, we were in this position last year and losing to Ohio State was tough, and I feel like this group really wants to take that next step forward and really get to the Final Four."
Syracuse has come a long way in the month of March, from a offensively-absent squad who endured a 61-39 loss to the Georgetown Hoyas to a offensively-active, stingy defensive team who returned to the Verizon Center and defeated one of the nation's top programs in Indiana. "It felt good to put up a little more than 39 points in this building," said Cooney of Syracuse's return to the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. "To beat a good team like Indiana was big for us, confidence-wise. They're a really good team. They were [ranked] 1 and 2 throughout the whole entire year. I mean, they dominated teams throughout the year. It felt good to kinda just come out there and prove to people that we're a really good team and that we can play with anyone in the country."
Despite not being on the floor as much as Triche or sophomore guard Michael Carter-Williams, Cooeny is gaining positives from his fellow backcourt crew. "I've learned a lot from those guys," Cooney offered. "Brandon [Triche] [against Indiana] was unbelievable. I mean, he kinda knew that like every time he got it, he needed to attack and get going and it really helped us, not only him, but helped our team."
Cooney keyed into what he has predominantly taken from both Triche and Carter-Williams. "The one thing is just to stay aggressive and keep making plays," Cooney stated.
The Orange will have to make plays versus their upcoming opponent, the Marquette Golden Eagles, who never lay down and accept defeat without giving it their all.
"I think we're more prepared throughout the earlier in the year play against any defense that comes at us," Cooney shared going into Syracuse's match with Marquette. "I think if they play zone, I mean, we'll move it a lot better and try and get into the gaps and make good reads and plays that we normally wouldn't in the beginning of the year."
"I think we'll be more prepared this time than last time," he added.
When asked what the Orange need to do differently in this match with the Golden Eagles to alter the outcome from their previous contest, a 74-71 loss in the regular season, Cooney stated, "Play all 40 minutes. I feel like sometimes during the beginning of the year and even the middle of the year...even the Louisville game, when we were up 15 with 15 minutes left, we didn't play all 40 minutes and we lost that game. But, I mean, I feel like we value possessions a lot better now and we're kinda just making better plays and better reads than we were at the beginning of the year. And you gotta play all 40 'cause if not, you can lose to anyone."