Tuesday, November 23, 2010

News and Notes: Tuesday Edition

Below, some news and notes for Tuesday. Above, Chris Wroblewski vs. Boston University on December 29, 2008, an 89-59 Cornell victory at Newman Arena. The Big Red and Terriers meet again on Saturday in Boston.
  • With Kansas on the verge of capturing its 63rd straight home win, the A.P. writes, "Not every win during the streak has been a runaway. There was a 76-72 overtime squeaker against Arizona, a 5-point win over Cornell and a 66-61 scare against Colorado, to name a few." Kansas guard, Tyrel Reed said KU’s 71-66 victory over Cornell last season was his favorite victory in the fieldhouse because of the way the Jayhawks “grinded” out the victory.
  • Brian Delaney of the Ithaca Journal shares his thoughts on Cornell-Lehigh from Monday night:

Well, Cornell officially has a bad loss on the resume. Bad took many forms Monday night, and is less a description of Lehigh's personnel (for a Patriot League team) than it is the Big Red's play in various facets.

This was the first true barometer game for the Big Red. It was Chris Wroblewski's third game back from injury, and it came against a team with similar frontcourt personnel (i.e., a team that relies on its guards; i.e. i.e a team that does not possess a strong inside defensive presence). The results didn't tell us much: Cornell played so uncharacteristically poorly that it's difficult to discern - although not impossible - where the real trouble spots are to watch going forward.

In talking about Josh Figini's contributions off the bench, Wroblewski acknowledged the starters' struggles.

"It was great to see Josh Figini kickstart us back in the game because we were really showing no life in the first half," he said.

That was indeed the case. Cornell averaged a little more than a turnover per minute for the first 12 minutes of the game, and finished the half with 14 turnovers. That's five more then they had all game against Delaware, and the final tally, 21, was six more than their previous season high of 15 against Seton Hall. It was ugly, pure and simple, and the culprits were many. It put Cornell in an early hole for the fifth straight game.

Vs. Albany: The Great Danes opened up a 22-10 lead before Cornell rallied.
Vs. Seton Hall: The Pirates got up quickly, never trailed and led 27-8 a little more than 8 minutes in.
Vs. Delaware: The Blue Hens scored seven of the game's first nine points before Cornell recovered.
Vs. St. Bonaventure: Bona scored the game's first five points, then fell behind as Cornell surged. Recovered to win.
Vs. Lehigh: Mountain Hawks exploit turnover-happy Cornell for a 20-9 first-half lead. Win by 3.

"I don't know," said a clearly frustrated Bill Courtney, when asked how his team can address slow starts. "I don't know how to fix turning it over 14 times, and just careless turnovers. It wasn't like Lehigh was pressuring us; we were just careless with the basketball."

Cornell now enters into the toughest part of its non-conference schedule: a trip to Boston University on Saturday, followed by road games at No. 10 Syracuse (Nov. 30) and No. 17 Minnesota (Dec. 4). Let's look at specific parts of last night's loss.

* The good

Figini: The 6-9 sophomore played 8 first-half minutes after Mark Coury picked up two fouls (later three) and Aaron Osgood was pulled twice for poor play. Figini played with confidence; he hit 3 of 5 shots for 8 points, grabbed one rebound and was one of three Cornell players not to turn the ball over. Offense aside, I liked how Figini defended, worked hard guarding the post, boxed out and contested. He competed hard, and I expect Bill Courtney will give him a long look for bigger minutes.

Anthony Gatlin: The 6-8 junior gave Cornell 13 very good minutes off the bench. The official scorekeepers had Gatlin down for two blocks; I had four, three definitely. He made his only shot, grabbed two rebounds and played outstanding interior defense.

Errick Peck: Forget the 3 for 10 shooting. Peck was much better. He had many more good defensive possessions than bad, he was credited with two blocked shots and he hustled. In the first half he missed a couple shots when he didn't get his shoulders square to the basket, but that kind of stuff is fixable. When the effort's there, the production will follow.

Drew Ferry: Ferry's line was terrific: 10 points, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers. He spent a good chunk defending C.J. McCollum, and despite not being as quick, he managed to stay in front of Lehigh's sophomore most of the time. When he got beat, help was quick to rotate. Ferry's footwork is excellent. He hit two 3's in transition when he caught the ball on the run, stopped on a dime and released. He played 26 very effective minutes.

Defense: Cornell forced McCollum into a 6-for-19 evening. On the whole, Lehigh shot 35.2 percent (19 for 54). CU's help defense was very good, it hustled on every possession, took charges and blocked shots.

* The bad

None of the four names mentioned above are starters. That's a problem. Will it spur a change?

21 turnovers: 8 came from Wroblewski, who is still recovering from that ankle injury. He's not as quick yet as he will be when that thing fully heals, and a couple of his turnovers came from him trying to create off the dribble. Forgiveable in part, considering Cornell once again didn't perform well offensively inside the three-point arc and Wroblewski was doing what he could to make something happen. But it's still too many - clearly the rust is still coming off his game. Lehigh scored 26 points off Cornell's 21 turnovers. Conversely, Cornell had eight points off 15 Lehigh turnovers.

Interior scoring: Cornell had 12 points in the paint, but only one bucket came out of a halfcourt set post-up (Osgood). On the night, Cornell shot 9 for 29 inside the arc (.310). Not good.

The officiating: Tough night for the zebras, and both coaches had good reason to gripe. When you rely on jumpers as much as Cornell does, a free throw disparity in the opponent's favor is going to happen. But what was a foul in the first 35 minutes of last night's game was not a foul late when Errick Peck twice went to the rack and appeared to absorb contact. Final FT stats were 23-30 for Lehigh, 9-10 for Cornell. Fouls were 24-13 Cornell. In the Bona game, fouls were 28-14 Cornell.

Osgood: He was pulled twice in the first half, after a mistake-prone first two minutes and then again after commiting back to back turnovers. He played 10 first half minutes and turned it over four times. He allowed McCollum to get two offensive rebounds over him, and a putback, in the latter stages of the game, and on the backbreaker, he didn't hedge out on the high screen that freed McCollum up for the go-ahead 3. Now that film is out on Cornell, opponents are doing whatever they can to muscle Osgood off the block. Delaware and Bonaventure did it successfully, and Lehigh mirrored that plan. Osgood was catching the ball 3 or 4 feet beyond the box, which does him and Cornell no good. He must establish better position inside, and then he can use his athleticism to score. He had four points on 1-for-5 shooting, and got to the line only twice.

Max Groebe: Groebe's shot was off, and Cornell suffered without his scoring. He went 0-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-5 from the arc. When he tried to score off the bounce, Lehigh's defenders were quick enough to stay in front.

Offensive droughts: Cornell went 8:10 in the second half between field goals, just a killer stretch. They went up 48-43 with 10:34 left, and didn't get another field goal until a Peck dunk with 2:24 on the clock. The only scoring during that drought came from two Wroblewski free throws.

Where's the back door? Courtney may need to do some tinkering with his sets. Right now, he's got an offense that's overly reliant on the three-point shot, and an interior post-up game that has been missing for three games despite repeated efforts to get it untracked. Opponents are overplaying the perimeter, which should open up backdoor opportunities. It would be worthwhile to clear out some space underneath and start using backdoor cuts to take the immense amount of scoring pressure off the guards.

That's it from me. We'll do the twitter thing again Saturday from Boston U., which should be a good one. Best wishes for a great Thanksgiving to everyone out there. Enjoy the time with your families. - BD
  • Delaney also notes the following in his Around the Rim article:
Last week was a bitter one for the members of Steve Donahue's coaching staff -- current and past -- at Boston College.

The Eagles, in Donahue's first season, lost to an Ivy League team for the third straight year, dropping a surprising 75-67 decision to Yale on Thursday at Conte Forum. Harvard had beaten BC the two previous years, and those outcomes helped further disgruntle an apathetic fan base and eventually helped lead to Al Skinner's firing.

Donahue is essentially rebuilding a program from scratch. Judgments should be withheld until probably Year 3 of his tenure, though in the world of major college sports patience is not always a bountiful virtue.

***

John Gallagher, whom Donahue hired to his BC staff before Hartford made him its head coach a short time later, saw his Hawks lose 71-57 to Dartmouth on Friday night.

The Big Green jumped out to a 39-24 halftime lead and won, giving Paul Cormier his first win of his second stint as Dartmouth head coach. That 39 points marked Dartmouth's highest first-half scoring output against a Division I opponent since a win over VMI on Nov. 10, 2007.

***

Gopher tough

Cornell knew its trip to Minnesota on Dec. 4 would be difficult one way or the other (the Big Red lost at Minny 71-54 in 2008), but the Golden Gophers are 5-0 and rolling up the national rankings.

They beat North Carolina on Friday night, then followed that with a quality 74-70 win over West Virginia on Sunday. In Monday's new poll, they were ranked No. 17.

After that game, Cornell will take its customary two-week finals break before returning at Binghamton on Dec. 18, and at home against Bucknell on Dec. 20.
Weekly honors

* Yale guard Austin Morgan and Harvard guard Christian Webster, both sophomores, shared this week's Ivy League player of the week.

Morgan had 25 points in Yale's win over Boston College last Thursday. Webster had 29 in Harvard's win over Mercer.
  • The Buffalo News writes, "Oddities: Bona had 17 field goals in its 56-54 victory over Cornell on Friday night. Center Andrew Nicholson and swingman Demitrius Conger produced 16 of them on a combined 26 attempts. Michael Davenport was the only other Bonnie to score from the floor as he and the rest of the team went 1 for 23. Was this a breakout game for Conger? We shall see how it carries over."
  • WEEI writes of Boston College's Danny Rubin:

DANNY RUBIN IS BACK, MAYBE TO STAY

He came to BC as an unheralded recruit, bound for Colgate as a preferred walk-on until Donahue invited him to Chestnut Hill. Had he gone to Colgate, Danny Rubin would have faced Holy Cross in Patriot League play. Monday night, he faced the Crusaders as a member of the Eagles.

The 6-foot-6 shooter played 22 minutes in the opener vs. St. Michael’s, scoring nine points. Then he never left the bench in the loss to Yale.

“That’s one of the things I was upset with myself the other night was I didn’t play him,” Donahue said. “He’s been playing well in practice. I think I learned last year in particular with this kid John Jaques that I had at Cornell. John taught me a huge lesson. He was kicking butt in practice for about a month. And I, for some reason, wasn’t putting him in the game because, well, ‘That’s John, he’s a sub. He’s a deep sub.’ But if you do it in practice, you should be rewarded. And Danny’s been doing it in practice. It’s as simple as that. He knows how to play, he plays hard, he’s got great instincts, and he can make shots. If he continues to play well, then he’ll continue to play.”

  • Cornell RPI Watch: The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not consider the margin of victory, but only whether or not a team won and where the game was played (home/away/neutral court). The formula is 25% team winning percentage (WP), 50% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponents' average winning percentage (OOWP). (See: CollegeRPI.com for a further explanation of the formula.) The RPI may be the most influential factor in NCAA Tournament seeding. Cornell's RPI rank as of November 22 is No. 207 out of 347 total Division I teams. While neither the Ken Pomeroy or Jeff Sagarin rankings are used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, the KenPom.com site ranks Cornell No. 190 in the nation, while the USA Today Sagarin rankings have Cornell at No. 160. Both sites are predominantly used by fans and the media.
  • Game Recaps-Below are links to our game recaps from each of Cornell's games this season. Associated press recaps courtesy of Rivals.com/YahooSports.com are always available by clicking on Cornell's schedule/results on the right column of this blog.
  1. at Albany W 65-61 (video recaps)
  2. at Seton Hall L 68-92
  3. vs. Delaware W 75-61 (video recap)
  4. vs. St. Bonaventure L 54-56
  5. at Lehigh L 57-60
IVY LEAGUE COMPOSITE SCHEDULE
Friday, November 12
Columbia 71 La Salle 82 Box Score - Recap
Rutgers 73 Princeton 78 OT Box Score - Recap
Cornell 65 Albany 61 Box Score - Recap
Brown 69 Fordham 65 Box Score - Recap

Saturday, November 13
Harvard 53 George Mason 66 Box Score - Recap
Davidson 64 Penn 69 Box Score - Recap
Dartmouth 52 Providence 87 Box Score - Recap
Yale 75 Quinnipiac 84 Box Score - Recap

Sunday, November 14
Cornell 68 Seton Hall 92 Noon [SNY/ESPN3/ESPN Full Court] Box Score - Recap
Princeton 60 Duke 97 [ESPNU] Box Score - Recap

Monday, November 15
Maryland-Eastern Shore 74 Columbia 108 Box Score - Recap
Yale 55 Providence 58 Box Score - Recap

Tuesday, November 16
Brown 67 Rhode Island 92 Box Score - Recap
New Hampshire 55 Dartmouth 53 Box Score - Recap

Wednesday, November 17
Delaware 61 Cornell 75 Box Score - Recap
Holy Cross 49 Harvard 72 Box Score - Recap
Penn 54 Manhattan 59 Box Score - Recap
Columbia 66 St. John’s 79 Box Score - Recap

Thursday, November 18
Yale 75 Boston College 67 Box Score - Recap

Friday, November 19
St. Bonaventure 56 Cornell 54 Box Score - Recap
Dartmouth 71 Hartford 57 Box Score - Recap

Saturday, November 20
Harvard 75 Mercer 69 Box Score - Recap
Sacred Heart 67 Brown 81 Box Score - Recap
Columbia 76 Longwood 95 Box Score - Recap
Drexel 77 Penn 56 Box Score - Recap

Sunday, November 21
Dartmouth 59 Loyola (Md.) 73 Box Score - Recap

Monday, November 22
Cornell 57 Lehigh 60 Box Score - Recap
Princeton 64 James Madison 65 Box Score - Recap

Tuesday, November 23
Bucknell at Princeton, 4:30 pm
Colgate at Columbia, 7 pm
Quinnipiac at Dartmouth, 7 pm
Lafayette at Penn, 7 pm
Yale at Illinois, 9:45 pm [ESPNU]

Wednesday, November 24
St. Francis (N.Y.) at Brown, 4 pm
Harvard at Bryant, 4 pm
Presbyterian vs. Princeton, 4:30 pm

Saturday, November 27
Brown at New Hampshire, 1 pm
Army at Yale, 2 pm
Colgate at Dartmouth, 2 pm
Cornell at Boston University, 5 pm
Penn at Pittsburgh, 7 pm [ESPN3.com]

Sunday, November 28
Colorado at Harvard, 2 pm
Columbia at American, 2 pm
Siena at Princeton, 2 pm

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