Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson were the unlikely heroes for Syracuse in a squeaker of a win Sunday, 71-69 over Louisiana Tech. The Orange were hampered by foul trouble the entire game. Cooney finished with 25 points and Roberson added 14 points and 17 rebounds.
Louisiana Tech entered the game led by 6-4 guards Alex Hamilton and Raheem Appleby, who both average 15 points per game. Syracuse is led by 6-9, 250-pound senior Rakeem Christmas, who averages 16.9 points and 9.8 rebounds. The Orange also feature 6-10 freshman forward Chris McCollough, who is currently a projected NBA lottery pick. McCollough averages 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds.
LA Tech got off to a solid start by forcing four turnovers and completing two Speedy Smith to Michale Kyser alley-oops by the first media timeout.
Rakeem Christmas got off to a good start for the Orange with seven points in the first six minutes. Raheem Appleby hit a couple of floaters in the lane and the senior guard had six points early for LA Tech.
Things looked to be going the way of the Bulldogs early when they led 12-9 after a steal and slam by Erik McCree combined with Christmas having to sit down by two fouls, but the Syracuse offense was too much, with long-range precision by Trevor Cooney and Kaleb Joseph.
Syracuse was able to extend the lead though and despite a run by Louisiana Tech, including a Speedy to Xavian Stapleton alley-oop, the Orange held a slim lead at the half, 32-31.
Louisiana Tech started 1-for-7 after the break and had a bit of a scare after Smith banged his knee and spent a few minutes out of the game. The momentum shifted to the Orange who extended their lead to 43-34 before Louisiana Tech was able to get back on track.
The Bulldogs wouldn't go away as they pulled within 67-65 with 1:55 to go behind Alex Hamilton. The junior guard scored again to tie the game with just 26 seconds remaining, but December is Christmas time.
With two seconds remaining, Christmas delivered the gift that would give Syracuse the win. He knocked down a jumper from Cooney that pushed the Orange to a two-point lead that would be the margin of victory.
And with that, Appleby and Hamilton each received coal in their stockings despite 20 points each to lead Louisiana Tech.