- Associated Press - Thursday, March 20, 2014

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Western Michigan was on a roll and seemed to have all the right pieces to give Syracuse a struggle in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

The Broncos had fifth-year seniors David Brown, the Mid-American scoring champion, and hulking center Shayne Whittington to operate their inside-out game, and they were used to the Orange’s zone defense.

None of that mattered on Thursday as Trevor Cooney scored 18 points, fellow guard Tyler Ennis had 16, and the Orange defense clamped down in a 77-53 victory over the MAC champ.

Syracuse (28-5) forced 11 turnovers in the opening half and scored 13 points off them in running out to a double-digit lead before the midpoint of the period. Syracuse used an 18-4 spurt over 10 minutes to take control and led 40-21 at halftime.

“We ran into a buzz saw today,” WMU coach Steve Hawkins said. “We made too many mistakes in the first half. We had 11 turnovers in the first half and that’s what staked them out to that lead. I felt like after we started taking care of the ball in the second half, we got a few better looks.”

Western Michigan (23-10) had won 14 of 16 games and hadn’t lost in regulation since January. Its first trip to the NCAA tournament in a decade won’t soon be forgotten, regardless of Thursday’s score.

“It’s a successful season whenever your team plays as hard as it can play and reaches its level of competency,” Hawkins said. “When you reach your ceiling, it’s a success, and we reached our ceiling this year.”

Whittington and Tucker Haymond led Western Michigan with 11 points apiece. Brown had a season-low nine points on 2-of-12 shooting, 2 of 10 from long range.

Jerami Grant finished with 16 points for the Orange, while C.J. Fair, double- and triple-teamed nearly every time he touched the ball, finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Syracuse rode its defense to the Final Four a year ago and the zone was stellar from the opening tip against the Broncos, who shot 4 of 18 (22.2 percent) from behind the arc and 17 of 49 (34.7 percent) overall.

Cooney hit 4 of 8 from beyond the arc and Ennis had six assists with one turnover to spark the Orange, who shot 28 of 57 (49.1 percent) from the field, hitting 7 of 17 from long range.

“It was just good to see one go in,” Cooney said. “It adds to your confidence a little bit, and I was able to get into a good rhythm and guys found me in good spots. The ball just went in today.”

Since matching a school record with nine 3-pointers that keyed a six-point win over Notre Dame last month, Cooney had hit just 10 of 51 (19.6 percent) from beyond the arc. That abysmal shooting came during Syracuse’s late-season swoon, which included a three-point loss to North Carolina State in the ACC tournament last week.

That’s all forgotten now.

“Same guy,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “He’s just got to get his looks and take them. He’s definitely stayed up the whole time. He’s played the other parts of the game. It’s a big difference when he makes shots.”

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