Prior to Thursday night's game between the Syracuse Orange and Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ND coach Mike Brey dubbed Syracuse shooting guard Trevor Cooney "the designated Irish killer" during the ACC coaches teleconference on Monday.
Cooney sure lived up to his new nickname, draining his first five shot attempts to open the game. He remained hot the rest of the way, scoring 15 of his game-high 22 points within the first 16 minutes to give the Orange a comfortable 44-27 lead at the half.
Cooney went three-for-eight from behind the arc in addition to draining all five of his free throw attempts. Those three three-pointers moved Cooney to third on Syracuse's all-time three-pointer list, behind only Gerry McNamara and Andy Rautins, respectively.
As both Syracuse and Notre Dame fans surely know, Cooney has made a living off of breaking Notre Dame's heart. Two years ago, Cooney drained nine three-pointers en route to scoring a career high 33 points against the Irish. Last season, Cooney scored two late baskets just 80 seconds apart to lift Syracuse to a 65-60 upset over then-ranked No. 9 Notre Dame.
"I don't know [why I play well against Notre Dame]," Cooney said after the game. "I was just able to get going early and make some plays and it went in for me early, which was good."
Cooney has scored 20 or more points in three out of his last six games, and Syracuse is now 9-3 when Cooney scores 14 more more points this season. While Cooney's performance Thursday may not have been the most dramatic, nor his most impressive, it was certainly the most important.
With Syracuse's win over Notre Dame, the Orange not only improve to 14-8, and 4-5 in ACC play, but they now also have four wins over ranked teams: UConn (ranked No. 16 at the time), Texas A&M (No. 25), Duke (No. 20), and now Notre Dame (No. 25).
With No. 2 North Carolina, No. 16 Louisville, and a tough matchup against Pittsburgh remaining on the schedule, the Orange will need Cooney to continue his recent scoring surge if they want to have any chance of making the NCAA Tournament.