Syracuse’s junior guard scored a season-high 28 points on a season-best 7 3-pointers to lead the Orange (12-4, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) to a 70-57 win over the Seminoles (9-7, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the Carrier Dome.
The win was SU’s sixth straight.
"We ran into a buzz saw," said Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton. "I actually thought we did a pretty good job defending him tonight, but he was in a zone. I was kind of hoping he’d wait one more game before he had a game like tonight. My biggest concern was that someone would go off and be successful. That makes it difficult for us with the team we have now."
Cooney entered the game hitting 36 percent from the 3, but he was hot from the start, hitting a jumper to tie the game at 2 and his first 3-pointer at 16:50.
Another 3 extended the Orange lead to 15-8 and his third 3 of the first half ballooned the Orange lead to 23-12 with 8:44 to go.
Cooney’s final 3 of the half gave the Orange its biggest lead at that point, 33-16, with under four minutes to go.
In all, he was 4 of 7 from the 3-point line in the first half to help lead Syracuse to a 35-22 lead at the break. He followed that with a 3-for-4 performance from beyond the arc in the second half and keyed a 19-10 Orange run after the Seminoles had cut the lead to 51-42 with 10:55 to go in the game.
"When I’m making shots, it extends the defense and we’re able to get some easy ones," Cooney said. "I needed to be aggressive for 40 minutes and get myself in a good rhythm. I was able to do that today early."
Rakeem Christmas registered his fifth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds and Michael Gbinije added 11 points and nine rebounds. Christmas also had five blocked shots.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes led Florida State with 14 points and Boris Bojanovsky had 10 points and four blocks.
Syracuse, which plays three of its next four at the Carrier Dome, entered the game hitting just 29 percent from the 3-point line. But the Orange hit 6 of 11 from long range in the first half, led by Cooney’s four, and were 10 of 17 for the game.
"I think we’re taking the right steps now," Cooney said. "We were struggling earlier, but we found our groove. We’ve been able to get good things going offensively and defensively. Hopefully, we’ll continue."
Florida State was just 2 of 16 from the 3, adding to the team’s woes from beyond the arc. The Seminoles entered the game hitting just 27 percent. Junior guard Devon Bookert, the Seminoles best 3-point shooter at 40 percent, was 0-for-3 from the 3-point line in the first half, 0-for-6 for the game, and just 2 of 12 from the field for six points.
"Obviously, they’ve been very good at playing their 2-3 zone, and I thought our guys were extremely tentative," Hamilton said. "In the second half we executed a lot better, but when you go 2 of 16 from the 3 and 61 percent from the free throw line it’s hard to win against a team like Syracuse."
The victory was tempered by an injury to Syracuse freshman forward Chris McCullough, who suffered an injury to his right knee with just under 12 minutes to go in the first half.
McCullough landed awkwardly trying to catch a high pass from Gbinije in transition, could put little pressure on his leg, was helped to the locker room, and never returned. He is to be evaluated Monday.
"We hope for the best for Chris," Cooney said. "He’s a big part of what we do."
Florida State: Sunday’s game at the Carrier Dome was the first time Seminoles had played in a domed building since playing at the AlamoDome in the Sweet 16 of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
Syracuse: Christmas, who entered the game averaging 17.3 points, has scored in double figures in all but one game this season.
Florida State’s troubles continued at the charity stripe. The Seminoles hit 13 of 21 for the game, 62 percent. For the season, they are hitting just 65 percent. … Rathan-Mayes was 1 of 5 from the 3.
Syracuse’s Gbinije continued his hot shooting from beyond the arc. He was 2 of 3 against Florida State and is now 13 of 19 in his last six games.
Florida State is at Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Syracuse is at home Tuesday night against Wake Forest.