WASHINGTON – Senior guard Trevor Cooney played a season-low 24 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to 8th-seeded Pittsburgh. That was his lowest in 96 games.
He only played six second-half minutes.
Cooney came out in the second half at the 14:56 mark, which is when freshman Frank Howard entered the game. At the time, the Orange trailed Pitt, 45-34, and the Panthers were in the middle of a 12-0 run.
“I thought Frank did an unbelievable job,” Jim Boeheim said after the game. “He got penetration. He got in the lane. He had five assists, got to the basket. He opened up their defense for other guys. [Pitt] had to help. They were able to drive.”
“He did a tremendous job,” he continued.
After trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, and 12 with 4:22 to go, junior forward Tyler Roberson forced a turnover that led to a Michael Gbinije basket.
The game was tied at 68 with 1:58 to go.
“I should have taken Frank Howard out of the game, but I just thought he had been playing well,” Boeheim said. “I should have taken him out and put Trevor back in. It was my mistake. I should’ve let Mike have the ball when we had the tied game."
Instead of subbing Cooney back in, Howard brought the ball up court and James Robinson intercepted his pass and went coast-to-coast for a go-ahead layup.
Pittsburgh regained the lead, 70-68, with 1:04 to go.
“It’s just one of those things. Sometimes you think you can get by with it. I thought he played well and had gotten us into good position but I should have made that change right then,” the Hall-of-Famer said.
It's easy to look back after the fact and second guess your decision, which is exactly what coach Boeheim is doing here.
When Cooney did re-enter the game with eight seconds left, the Orange trailed by one.
The play was designed for Gbinije to get the ball and drive to the basket, but he was double-teamed. Instead, Cooney grabbed the inbounds pass from Malachi Richardson and brought the ball up court.
After shaking his defender, the 5th-year guard pulled up for a game-winning three, which was off the mark to the left
Pitt won, 72-71.
“That’s my guy,” fellow senior Michael Gbinije said after the game. “Whatever he wants to do in that situation, I’m good with. If he wants the 3, then so be it. I trust him.”
Cooney, on the other hand, said he should’ve driven to the basket.
“I guess looking back on it I probably should’ve drove,” he said. “I didn’t know how much time was left so I tried to get a good look.”
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Syracuse fell to 19-13, and will likely be on the outside looking in when the committee decides on the best 68 teams in the country.