Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Game Recap: Cornell Falls to Bucknell

Cornell's Errick Peck goes up for a shot against Bucknell's Bryan Cohen during the first half of the Big Red's 75-64 loss Monday evening at Newman Arena.

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
December 21, 2010

ITHACA -- For Bill Courtney and the Cornell men's basketball team, Christmas break will be one for some deep and much-needed soul-searching.

That was the sentiment expressed Monday night, after visiting Bucknell came into a church-quiet Newman Arena and outplayed the Big Red almost all night in a 75-64 outcome.

The loss was Cornell's seventh straight, and the showing -- after Saturday's bitter loss at Binghamton -- was not what was hoped. With Ivy League play four games away, Cornell (2-8) has regressed since a competitive loss at Minnesota on Dec. 4 that now looks like fool's gold.

"We've got to do a lot of re-evaluating," Courtney said. "As a coaching staff, we'll re-evaluate what we're doing and try and figure out what we're doing. The better team won the game tonight. They're better than us for whatever reason. We didn't guard like we had been guarding or should be guarding. We're not the same team that left Minnesota."

Bucknell (6-6), which has now won four straight, played like a team ready to compete for a league championship. The Bison was balanced, and got 35 total points from frontcourt players Mike Muscala (20) and Joe Willman (15).

Willman scored all of his points in the second half, when Bucknell shot 56 percent from the field.

Bryan Cohen added 17 points.

"Willman was terrific, and he got it going and our guys found him and he was really aggressive," Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said. "Important were a couple extra effort plays."

Cornell had two leads, both by one point, both in the second half. Both times, Bucknell pieced runs of 10-0 and 9-0 in response. After the second one, which gave the visitors a 56-47 lead with 7 minutes, 49 seconds left, the closest Cornell got was four. The Bison just executed too well on both ends of the court.

"We just have to find ways to close it out," senior center Aaron Osgood said. "Too many games where we had opportunities and we couldn't quite close it out. It hurts. Every time, it just hurts. We have to stay with it."

Sophomore Errick Peck had a career night in the loss. The 6-6 forward had 21 points and eight rebounds on 9-for-12 shooting. His 15-point first half, combined with 12 points off the bench from Max Groebe, kept Cornell within striking distance. The duo scored 27 of the team's 31 points.

In the second half, Bucknell defended hard, took the Big Red out of sets, played a methodical pace and wore its collective psyche down. Cornell shot just 37.5 percent in the second half, and simply had too many empty trips followed up by Bucknell buckets.

"First of all, it starts with confidence," Peck said. "A lot of us now, I'm hearing people talk about 'They don't know how to win. (Stuff) like that.' We have to come out knowing we're going to win games this year. We just have to come and play for 40 minutes."

Courtney, through his substitution patterns, displayed his ongoing search for successful combinations. Eleven players saw time in the first half, and Groebe -- who played nine combined minutes in Cornell's previous two games -- shot the ball so well Courtney couldn't take him out. He played 27 minutes.

But no combination worked well enough Monday, and now some serious introspection will take place before the VCU tournament on Dec. 29-30.

"I'm not going to make drastic changes," Courtney said. "I am going to find five guys that want to get on the floor and guard. Like I said, it's unacceptable for us to give up 56 percent. I know we're a better defensive team than that, but we have to play as a better defensive team. We can't have that."

Anthony Gatlin (tendonitis) and Dwight Tarwater (mono) missed their second straight game.

By Quintin Schwab
Cornell Daily Sun

A return home was not the cure for the Cornell men’s basketball team’s struggles, as the Red lost its seventh straight game, 75-64, to steady Patriot League foe Bucknell. Sophomore forward Mike Muscala scored 20 points, guards Joe Willman and Byran Cohen combined for 32 and the Bison spoiled Cornell’s first game at Newman Arena in a month with help from a spotty all-around performance by the Red.

For the Red (2-8, 0-0 Ivy League), sophomore guard Errick Peck continued his strong play since returning to the starting lineup, scoring a career-high 21 points to go along with eight rebounds. Senior guard Max Groebe added 15 points on 5-of-7 3-point shooting after making only two of his previous 18 attempts from beyond the arc.

But backcourt mates Chris Wroblewski and Andrew Ferry shot a combined 4-of-20 from the field, Cornell once again received little production from its forwards and the Red allowed Bucknell (6-6, 0-0 Patriot League) to shoot 56 percent from the field in the second half.

“We didn’t get stops in the second half,” said head coach Bill Courtney. “They shot 56 percent and that’s just unacceptable. We’ve got to be better. We have to be better in a lot of areas, and it’s going to start with defense.”

After Ferry’s first points of the game on a 3-pointer gave Cornell a 47-46 lead with 11:57 remaining, Bucknell scored on seven of its next nine possessions to build a 62-53 lead with 4:53 to play on a jumper from Cohen.

The Red crawled within 64-60 on a Wroblewski layup with 3:21 remaining, but seven Bucknell free throws down the stretch sealed the 11-point victory.

The Bison scored 15 points in the game’s first four minutes, and jumped out to a 19-11 advantage with 13:27 left in the opening frame on a layup from senior point guard Darryl Shazier. That’s when Peck and Groebe got going, combining to score the last 20 Red points of the first half. Five straight points from Peck in the first minute of the second half gave Cornell its first lead of the game, 36-34.

However, Bucknell’s modest inside production proved the difference during its 41-28 run the rest of the way. The Bison outscored Cornell in the paint 18-4 in the second period, as the Red forwards were frequently slow on defense and nonexistent on offense.

“We’re not big and we’re not athletic,” Courtney said. “So if we allow their forwards to catch it down low, there’s not really much we can do. That was a huge defensive breakdown for us to allow their post guys to get those touches.”

Nine of Bucknell’s 14 second-half field goals came in the paint.

“We can’t let up that many easy points inside,” Peck said. “If you get killed in points in the paint, you’re going to lose the game — it’s as simple as that.”

After out-rebounding Binghamton, 42-23, in a 69-68 defeat on Saturday — including three offensive rebounds on its last possession with failed put-backs — Cornell was characteristically outworked on the glass against the Bison, 37-28.

Bucknell shot 50 percent for the game, including 6-of-9 from 3-point range, while the Red made 41.5 percent overall. Courtney acknowledged that missed shots on easy opportunities — although the Red did shoot better than its season average of 37.5 percent — do affect the confidence of his players.

“It kind of deflates our team,” he said. “Then we make another miss, and then they score again. Then we turn it over, they score again. In those critical moments, we haven’t gotten enough confidence in what we do to make the right plays.”

Peck, who slowed down in the second half due to foul trouble on several debatable calls, questions the confidence of the team altogether, too.

“First and foremost, it’s all about confidence. We’ve got to come out and know that we are going to win games this year. I mean, we’re 2-8, but we are a good team. ... Come out and be ready to win.”

Cornell players will head home for the Holidays this week and reconvene in Ithaca before the Red attempts to snap its skid against New Hampshire in Richmond, Va., on Dec. 29 as part of the 2010 VCU Christmas Tournament.

“We’ve just got to take a couple days off — spend time with the family and evaluate from a personal standpoint what you can do to get better,” said senior forward and tri-captain Aaron Osgood, who had five points and three rebounds in 11 minutes of action.

After the tournament, two more non-conference home games during the first week of 2011 lie before the beginning of Ivy League play. Courtney insists the club’s aspirations do not change.

“We’re going to do a lot of re-evaluating, but I’m not going to make any drastic changes. But we’re not the same team we were in Minnesota — we were a much better ball club then,” Courtney said, speaking of his squad’s near-upset of then-No. 15 Minnesota on Dec. 4.

“I’m not giving up the thought that we will compete for the Ivy League championship, but we just have to get some things corrected and get better.”

Box Score

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Bucknell shot 56 percent form the floor in the second half to overcome a career-high 21-point, eight-rebound effort from Cornell sophomore Errick Peck in a 75-64 Bison victory over the Big Red on Monday evening at Newman Arena. Bucknell evened its record at 6-6, while Cornell lost its seventh straight game to fall to 2-8.

Peck was an efficient 9-of-12 from the floor, continuing his strong play since rejoining the starting lineup. He added eight rebounds, an assist, a steal and an emphatic blocked shot. Max Groebe hit five 3-pointers en route to 15 points, while Chris Wroblewski hit for 12 points with three assists and a pair of rebounds. Cornell turned the ball over just nine times, but couldn't contend with Bucknell's siza advantage in the paint.

Bucknell controleld the paint in the second half to end the contest with a 37-28 advantage and got 20 points and nine rebounds from Mike Muscala, while Bryan Cohen had a solid floor game with 17 points and eight rebounds. Joe Willman had a breakout game for the Bison with 15 points and nine rebounds, while Darryl Shazier was his steady self at the point in collecting six points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals. Bryson Johnson scored nine points on three 3-pointers and G.W. Boon had eight points off the bench. Bucknell shot 56 percent from the floor after halftime (14-of-25) and made 6-of-9 from beyond the arc (67 percent) while committing just 10 turnovers.

The Bison came out hot, making seven of their first eight shots, but Cornell's defense was able to tamp them down some, erasing an early nine-point deficit (15-6) by chipping away. The Big Red got within one points twice in the first half, the second time when Peck stole a Bison pass in the corner, ran the length of the court and dunked it home with 19 seconds left in the half to make it 32-31 Bucknell. Peck made 7-of-8 shots in the half for 15 points, while Groebe scored 12 on four 3-pointers as the duo scored 27 of the squad's 31 points in the first 20 minutes. After the Bison's hot start, the visitors made just 4 of their final 17 shots to finish the half at 44 percent from the floor.

Cornell quickly took the lead with a jumper by Peck 10 seconds into the second half, then hit a trey a minute later to go up 2 (36-34), Cornell's largest lead of the half. After falling behind by six, Cornell again clawed back before consecutive 3-pointers by Groebe and Drew Ferry gave the home team the lead 47-46 with 12 minutes to play. The Bison offense was able to come alive, going on a 10-0 run to turn the one-point deficit into a nine-point Bucknell lead with just under eight minutes to play. Willman scored seven points during the decisive run, including a tough turnaround jumper and a three-point play off a great find by Shazier down low. Cornell crept back within four (56-52) with seven minutes left after Wire hit a straight-on 3-pointer from the top of the key, but Willman answered with consecutive baskets to make the lead eight.

The Big Red again stayed around, getting back within four (64-60) after a driving layup by Wroblewski. Muscala answered with a pair of free-throws after a long offensive possession and the Big Red never were able to get back within six the rest of the way.

Cornell will attempt to snap its skid when it meets New Hampshire after the holiday break as part of the 2010 VCU Christmas Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 29 at 5 p.m. in Richmond, Va.

Box Score

ITHACA, N.Y. - Mike Muscala had 20 points and nine rebounds, Bryan Cohen finished with 17 points and eight rebounds and Joe Willman had 15 points - all in the second half - to go with nine rebounds to lift Bucknell to its fourth straight victory, 75-64 over Cornell at Newman Arena on Monday night. The Bison have climbed all the way back to level at 6-6 on the season with one game remaining before Christmas, at Boston College on Wednesday night.

Bucknell fought off a number of Cornell rallies in this one, but allowed only one field goal in the last four minutes to take control of a close game. The Bison led by nine points early in the game, but the lead was just one at the half. The second half featured a number of major momentum swings, with Cornell coming back to take slim leads on three occasions. Every time, though, Bucknell had an answer against a Big Red team looking to rebuild under former Bison star Bill Courtney after making a run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen a year ago.

Errick Peck, who led Cornell with 21 points and eight rebounds, was molten hot for the first 22 minutes. After scoring 15 points in the first half, Peck hit his first two shots of the second to make him 9-for-10 on the night and give the Big Red a 36-34 lead.

At that point Bison coach Dave Paulsen turned to fifth-year senior Stephen Tyree to try to slow Peck down, and the move provided a spark. Tyree, who is playing with a torn ACL suffered in preseason practice, checked in for the first time this season at the 18:24 mark and was immediately matched up on Peck. Even though Tyree only played one four-minute shift, he gave the team a major lift. While on the floor he made a defensive stop on Peck, dished to Bryson Johnson for a 3-pointer, then flew across the lane for a defensive rebound.

Bucknell scored 10 straight points after Tyree came on, with Muscala following Johnson's trey with a 3-point play and an inside move for a layup. Willman's put-back capped the run and gave the Bison a 44-36 lead.

Cornell kept coming, though, and answered the Bucknell 10-0 run with an 11-2 surge to regain the lead. Max Groebe hit his fifth 3-pointer of the night to pull the Big Red within 46-44, and then Drew Ferry drilled a transition 3-pointer at the 11:56 mark to make it 47-46 Cornell.

With the crowd back in it, Willman completely took over the game over the next four minutes, scoring 11 of Bucknell's 14 points over that span, including nine in a row. He gave the Bison the lead back for good with a short jumper off a Muscala feed with 10:51 to play. Cohen hit a transition three of his own, then WIllman had a layup and a 3-point play to make it 56-47.

Cornell scored five quick points on a Ferry layup and an Adam Wire trey from the top of the key, but then Willman canned a 10-footer and another jumper after popping out on an inbounds play.

Chris Wroblewski, Cornell's leading scorer and the lone returning starter from last year's 29-5 team, went without a field goal for more than 35 minutes before trying to shoot the Big Red back in the game. He made a 3-pointer, two free throws and a layup to bring Cornell back within four at 64-60 with 3:21 to play.

But the Bison were rock solid down the stretch. Muscala got to the free throw line and converted both, and after a defensive stop Muscala rebounded a Cohen miss and put it back for a 68-60 lead with 2:19 left. Bucknell handled Cornell's full-court pressure and did well enough at the free-throw line to advance the lead into double digits. Bucknell was red-hot early against Cornell's high-pressure defense. The Bison started 9-for-11 from the field, including three straight 3-pointers by Johnson, Cohen and then Johnson again, giving them an early 15-6 lead.

Cornell stayed in it thanks to the strong play of Peck and Groebe, who combined for 27 of their team's 31 first-half points. Groebe hit four 3-pointers, the last bringing the Big Red within 32-29, and then Peck's steal and breakaway jam with 19 seconds left made it 32-31 at the break.

Bucknell finished the half 2-for-14 after the 9-for-11 start, with numerous drives to the basket coming up empty.

For the game, the Bison shot an even 50 percent and went 6-for-9 from the 3-point arc against a team that was holding opponents to 29.7 percent 3-point shooting on the season. They also went 19-for-25 from the foul line and finished with a commanding 37-28 rebounding edge. Willman and Cohen both saved possessions with offensive rebound tip-outs in the late stages, and Willman, Cohen and Muscala had 26 rebounds between them.

Patriot League assists leader Darryl Shazier upped his average with seven helpers. Shazier came into the game ranked fifth in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio, and he had just two turnovers in this one. He now has 67 assists and 16 turnovers on the season, and he passed Abe Badmus for fifth place on Bucknell's all-time assists list with 380.

As a team, Bucknell had 15 assists and 10 turnovers, with only three miscues in the second half.

Muscala, who went 7-for-12 from the floor and 6-for-7 from the line, turned in his fifth 20-point game of the season and seventh of his career. He also had 20 points in an overtime loss to Cornell last season. Willman's 15 points equaled his career high, set last season at American.

Also for Bucknell, Johnson hit three treys for nine points and G.W. Boon added eight points off the bench. Now 4-0 in the month of December, the Bison have won two straight road games since an 0-4 road start.

In addition to Peck's 21 points, Groebe finished with 15 and Wroblewski 12. The rest of the squad combined for only 16 points. Cornell shot 41.5 percent for the game and went 9-for-21 from the arc and 11-for-18 from the foul line.

Courtney, the No. 8 scorer in Bucknell men's basketball history, was a 2007 inductee into the Bucknell Athletics Hall of Fame. He is in his first season as a head coach, and his Cornell team was playing at home for the first time in more than a month. The Big Red have lost seven in a row and are now 2-8 on the season against a tough schedule.

Bucknell continues on the road Wednesday night against Boston College at 7 p.m.


Harry '59 said...

This is getting monotonous - and ugly. Aaron Osgood repeated what I've said to my friends. We have to learn how to win. we've been close in every game except Seton Hall, yet we've found ways to LOSE, not win.

There is one bright spot. At the beginning of the season, I predicted we'd win the Ivy League and that Peck and Groebe would be our leading scores. For the first time this season that happened.

We have the talent to win the League. It just has to jell---fast.

See you at Columbia.

Anonymous said...

One of the things I noticed yesterday was Willman had too easy a time getting the ball in good position and getting his shot off. On at least several plays Wire allowed him to get the ball and then isn't big enough to bother the shot. We have to do a better job denying the entry pass and pushing a player away from where he wants to get the ball.

Anonymous said...

A quick follow up on my previous comment- I thought we did a much better job denying the ball into the post against a much bigger team in Minnesota which is hard to understand.

Anonymous said...

I was just looking at Errick Peck's improvement from his first 6 games to his past 4 games, and the change has been ridiculous:

FG%: from 23% to 50%
3PT%: from 12.5% (1-8) to 44% (4-9)
Rebounds per game: From 1.8 to 4.8
Points per game: from 4.2 to 15.8

Anonymous said...

We're not winning the league, and there's nothing wrong with that, this is a rebuilding year. We'll be lucky if we finish outside of the bottom 3 in the Ivies. This team is, at the moment, pretty talentless.

Anonymous said...

Peck's improvement still = the same end result - 2 and 8.

Team sport.