Trevor Cooney breaks out of his slump in No. 3 Syracuse’s win over Western Michigan

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As the regular season moved closer to its conclusion one of the issues for South Region No. 3 seed Syracuse was their play on the offensive end, as they struggled to knock down shots as their ACC schedule got tougher. Sophomore guard Trevor Cooney certainly had his issues, scoring in double figures just once in Syracuse’s final seven regular season games. And if the Orange are to make a run at their second consecutive Final Four appearance, he’ll need to get going.

That’s what could make Cooney’s showing in Syracuse’s comfortable 77-53 win over Western Michigan in the Round of 64 an important development moving forward. Cooney made eight of his 16 field goal attempts (4-for-8 3PT), scoring 18 points in his highest scoring output since dropping 33 on Notre Dame back on February 3.

With point guard Tyler Ennis running the show and C.J. Fair and Jerami Grant both being capable scoring options at the forward spots, it isn’t as if Syracuse lack offensive weapons. As a team the Orange shot 49.1% from the field, and they also took advantage of their ability to hit the offensive glass (SU rebounded 43.3% of its missed shots) against the overmatched Broncos.

Yet in order for Ennis, Fair and Grant to have the room they need in order to be at their best, Cooney needs to hit perimeter shots at a respectable clip.

In his final seven regular season games Cooney shot 19-for-73 (26.0%) from the field and 11-for-51 (21.6%) from beyond the arc, with both percentages being a far cry from his numbers for the season as a whole (40.5% FG, 37.7% 3PT). Obviously the road will get tougher for Syracuse, beginning Saturday with a game against No. 11 seed Dayton, but Cooney’s shooting against Western Michigan cannot be overlooked.

Marcus Paige, Joel Berry lead No. 9 North Carolina past No. 2 Maryland

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — He’s back.

For the first time this season — and for the first time in more than a year that he hasn’t been hampered with some kind of foot or ankle injury — Marcus Paige donned a North Carolina jersey, and it didn’t take him long to find the form that made him the Preseason National Player of the Year.

On the first Tar Heel possession, Paige came off of a ball-screen, drove the lane and found Kennedy Meeks at the rim for a layup. Not 30 seconds later, he came off of a down screen and buried a three. Paige would finish with 20 points and five assists as No. 9 North Carolina put together a fairly resounding win over No. 2 Maryland in the Dean Dome on Tuesday night, winning 89-81.

Paige finished 7-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-5 from beyond the arc, hitting a number of threes in the second half that helped hold off a Maryland push sparked by their own all-american point guard, Melo Trimble.

Trimble was erratic early on, committing three turnovers in the first six minutes and eight on the night, but it was his play at the end of the first half and early second half that kept North Carolina from blowing their doors. At one point, Maryland was down 32-19 and in danger of getting run out of Tobacco Road.

In total, Trimble finished with 23 points and 12 assists, hitting four big threes during that stretch. He either scored or assisted on 11 of Maryland’s first 12 second half field goals.

As good as Paige was, the bigger story may actually be Joel Berry II. He took two dumb threes in the first half — which played a role in Maryland being able to make this a game — and he missed a few free throws late, but overall he was terrific. He finished with 14 points and five assists, making 3-of-5 threes and turning the ball over just twice. He’s clearly beat Nate Britt out at the point guard spot, and his ability to take pressure off of Paige as a secondary ball-handler and playmaker is huge.

(More to come from Chapel Hill…)

VIDEO: Melo Trimble drops Nate Britt with a crossover

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North Carolina is hosting No. 2 Maryland in a heated contest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Terps sophomore guard Melo Trimble is playing very well and part of his performance was dropping North Carolina’s Nate Britt with a crossover in the second half.

(H/T: The Cauldron)