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Fordham-Syracuse Preview

AP - Sports

After a sluggish performance in the first half of its season opener, Syracuse played like a top-tier program in the final 20 minutes.

The ninth-ranked Orange hope to build on that strong second half when they host Fordham on Tuesday night.

Coach Jim Boeheim was happy with his team's preparation leading up to Friday's opener against Cornell, but Syracuse looked lethargic in falling behind by as much as 14 points before halftime. The Orange came out with a renewed energy in the second half, outrebounding the Rig Red 22-7 and holding them to 22 points to pull away for an 82-60 win.

"In the second half we made some adjustments defensively, took away their high-post pass, got to the shooters better," Boeheim said. "When you don't move on defense, it doesn't matter what kind of defense you play. ... It's just a defensive effort."

While Syracuse buckled down defensively, Trevor Cooney got the offense on track. Cooney, taking over in the backcourt for Brandon Triche, hit three 3-pointers in a span of just over four minutes late in the opening half to spark the comeback and finished 7 of 8 from beyond the arc for a career-high 27 points.

"He bailed us out when we really needed him," Boeheim said of the sophomore, who averaged 3.4 points last season.

The Orange will have forward Jerami Grant available after he sat out the first game due to a summer league violation, according to reports. He averaged 3.9 points and 3.0 rebounds last season as a freshman and is now expected to be a key contributor. Grant averaged 13.3 points and 7.8 boards in Syracuse's four August exhibition games in Canada.

Heralded freshman point guard Tyler Ennis had an uneven first game, missing all six of his shots but posting team highs of eight rebounds and seven assists.

Syracuse's four freshmen finished 6 of 19 from the field, and senior forward C.J. Fair had 19 points but turned the ball over seven times.

"We're not last year's team," Boeheim said of the squad that went to the Final Four. "Michael Carter-Williams would have gone by these guys and dunked six times. He's not here. That's something we have to adjust to. We've got a lot of work to do."

Boeheim will look for another strong defensive effort to frustrate Fordham freshman Jon Severe, the New York state player of the year in 2013.

Severe was 7 of 10 from 3-point range and scored 28 points to lead the Rams to a season-opening 87-67 victory over St. Francis Pennsylvania on Friday. The Brooklyn native, who turned down offers to bigger programs, set a school record for points by a freshman in his first game.

Severe isn't the only player Syracuse can focus on, though, because three of Fordham's top four scorers from last season are back and all scored in double figures Friday. Bryan Smith had 18 points, Mandell Thomas scored 15 and Branden Frazier added 10.

"It's a great weapon," Fordham coach Tom Pecora said. "The advantage of playing the way we're playing is that we've got four guys on the floor that can make shots."

Syracuse holds a 27-16 edge in the all-time series against Fordham, including a 78-53 win at the Carrier Dome in the most recent meeting Nov. 12, 2011. They've met three times since the Rams' last win in 1981.

Fordham's lone victory over a Top 25 team in 24 tries dating to 2000 came against No. 22 Harvard in 2012.

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