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It was another eye-opener for Syracuse's defense.  Except this time, it was a good thing.

After beating Long Beach State on Sunday, Jim Boeheim said his defense needed to play much better.   The Orange bounced back by holding Cornell to just 12 points in the first half on Wednesday night.

"We wanted to do a better job defensively, tonight," Boeheim said.   "I think we did."  

After a cold start to the season, Michael Gbinije has given the Orange a recent offensive spark with three straight games with at least ten points.

On Sunday, he gave the Carrier Dome crowd of 22,508 fans another reason to celebrate with a highlight-reel play midway through the first half.  Gbinije crept behind the defense, skied for the rebound and swung around the rim for a two-handed putback slam after Tyler Roberson's three bounced right above the basket.

Trevor Cooney went into the locker room at intermission with 14 points, a good blend of inside and outside shooting that's continued a recent resurgence.

By that point, he not only led Syracuse in points, but outscored the entire Colgate lineup.

Only 17 seconds separated Syracuse from its biggest win of the season.

The Orange held a five-point lead, on the verge of upsetting No. 7 Villanova in the Wells Fargo Center. Syracuse had withstood a second half onslaught by the Wildcats, foul trouble and 18 turnovers as a team. 

But it was the 19th turnover -- a botched inbounds play -- that turned the game out of Syracuse's control.  The Wildcats took control of the loose ball and JayVaughn Pinkston scored the game-tying field goal with four seconds left, just moments after Josh Hart sunk a three.

  What a difference a week makes.

Trevor Cooney exploded for a team-high 25 points, saving the Orange from an embarrassing home loss to Louisiana Tech.   It was a season-high for Cooney, just eight days after scoring a season-low two points against St. John's.

In that game, Cooney made just 1-of-6 shots, missed all four threes and continued Syracuse's miserable year of outside shooting.  In this one, he shot 4-8 from behind-the-arc, while taking over ball handling duties at points in the game.

The shooting struggles continued for Syracuse, but this time the Orange didn't wait until the final minute for a offensive meltdown.

Against Michigan, it was a pair of turnovers in the last 20 seconds that derailed the team's chance of upsetting the No. 17 Wolverines.

Against St. John's, the game hinged on the last five minutes and 34 seconds, a brutal stretch when the Orange only managed one field goal.

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Jim Boeheim said that his team saved its best game for its best opponent. But his two freshmen saved their worst moments for the final minute against No. 17 Michigan.

The Orange had eliminated the Wolverines’ 10-point lead, tying the game with 56 seconds to play.  Then Kaleb Joseph and Chris McCullough both turned the ball over with less than 20 seconds left and Syracuse trailing by one. 

“You can’t do that and win games,” Boeheim said after the game.

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The 2014 football season that began with a pair of wins for Syracuse came to a merciful end on Saturday with a fifth straight loss, a quarterback controversy and bunch of question marks heading into the offseason. 

Syracuse’s season finale concluded like so many other games throughout the year – good defense, bad offense and a few head scratching plays in between. 

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They had just a one-point lead midway through the first half – thanks to a 3-10 shooting start – and the Orange offense looked on its way to another questionable scoring output.  Syracuse didn’t make a three-pointer all night, an all-time low on a team that already struggles in that department.

The shots, again, just wouldn’t fall.

Then Kaleb Joseph drove coast-to-coast and rolled in a righty floater off the glass to give Syracuse a 10-7 lead at the 12:17 mark.  Joseph’s leaner started an overpowering 31-10 run by the Orange to end the first half. 

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The Syracuse Orange hasn’t had the most impressive offensive start to the season, by any metric.  But back home in the Carrier Dome, the Orange got a glimpse that it could be worse.

A lot worse.

The Loyola Greyhounds missed their first 13 shots of the game, unable to make a field goal until more than halfway into the first half.  Tyler Hubbard finally ended the scoring drought with a long three-pointer from the top of the key at the 8:32 mark.  By then, the Orange led 17-4.

And Syracuse fans thought their offense was bad.

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