In Syracuse’s last-minute, grinding win over Cincinnati on Monday, Jim Boeheim went with a three-guard lineup for a long, long stretch of the game. He ran it for the final two minutes of the first half, and then from the 16:30 mark of the 2nd half until around the 9:00 mark. Here, finally, SU felt the absence of James Southerland. Grant has filled in well overall, but Cincinnati’s persistent zone defense proved particularly challenging for him, and Boeheim went to Cooney to try to spark the offense. He did a decent job, hitting a couple of shots but just as importantly forcing UC to pay some attention him on the outside, which helped open up driving space for Triche and MCW. But SU’s rebounding suffered during this stretch: they gave up three offensive rebounds on seven missed Bearcat shots during this time span.
All that said, the lineup actually worked, to a point. SU was down by 4 when Cooney entered in the 2nd half, and they were down by 2 when he left. But still — this is the scenario where Southerland would really make a difference. You have to respect his shot more than you respect Cooney’s (no offense to Trevor) and for all his defensive flaws you’d rather have him than Triche on the wing of the zone.
I give Cooney credit for stepping up and contributing during his most meaningful minutes of the season. His other long stretch of important play was against Villanova, when Triche had to sit with 4 fouls for much of the 2nd half. In that game he hit those two late threes to put it out of reach, but before those shots he did precious little. In this game he had a couple of important threes but also four steals and one fast-break hoop that looked like it ought to have been a three-point play.
Whether Boeheim rolls out the three-guard look against Nova this weekend remains to be seen. As we saw a couple of weeks ago, the Wildcats rely much more on their forwards this season than they have traditionally done. Going for long stretches with Triche on the baseline may be a dangerous proposition. In the last game, Grant, Christmas, and Coleman all played well and each had key plays that helped the Orange secure the victory. They’ll probably have to repeat that feat. My hunch is that JB will indeed go to the three-guard look for at least a little while, just giving it a try to see what happens, but that it won’t be particularly effective and that he’ll switch back to something more traditional for the remainder of the contest.