Friday, December 31, 2010

Game Recap: Cornell Snaps Winless Streak, Defeats Wofford

Below, game recaps from Cornell's win over Wofford on Thursday night.

Ithaca Journal
December 31, 2010

RICHMOND, Va. -- First came a drastic shake-up to the Cornell men's basketball starting lineup. Then came a stunningly precise shooting display by motivated regulars. Then hair-raising moments down the stretch when important free throws missed the mark.

Then, at the end, came regained composure and a much-needed win.

Cornell ended an eight-game losing streak on Thursday evening with an 86-80 conquest of defending Southern Conference champion Wofford at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

It was the consolation game of the Richmond Downtown Marriott Holidays on the Hardwood Classic, hosted by Virginia Commonwealth University.

"I think any time you go through what we have been through, you have times of self doubt," Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. "I think coaches, players, everybody doubts themselves a little bit. We had a (three-hour) meeting today that let it be known that we don't doubt you guys, you guys shouldn't doubt each other, and if we do certain things then we'll get better."

Drew Ferry scored 25 points, Chris Wroblewski added 21 and 12 assists, and the Big Red (3-9) won for the first time in nearly six weeks by shooting a blistering 63.8 percent from the floor and 71.4 percent from the three-point arc (15-for-21). The 86 points were a season-high.

"I think it's been well over a month probably since we got our last win. I almost forgot what it feels like," Wroblewski said.

Six of Cornell's eight losses came by five points or fewer, and Wofford made things interesting by slicing a 17-point second-half deficit to six on at least three occasions over the final five minutes, and to four points with about 30 seconds remaining.

Errick Peck hit two free throws with 24 seconds left to make it 84-78, Adam Wire rebounded a Jamar Diggs miss, and Ferry capped a career night with two more free throws to seal the win.

Before those four free throws, however, Cornell had missed 10 of 17 from the foul line in the second half.

When Peck scored eight minutes into the second half to give Cornell a 69-52 lead, it was the Big Red's 27th field goal in 33 attempts -- an off-the-charts percentage of .818. Included were 14 3-pointers in 17 attempts.

Ferry made eight of nine shots from the field, and seven of eight from the arc. Wroblewski made all four of his 3-point attempts and was 5-for-8 from the floor. Peck scored 16 points and Aaron Osgood had 12.

Courtney started Peck along with four role players: first-time starters Josh Figini, Pete McMillan and freshman Manny Sahota, and sophomore Miles Asafo-Adjei.

Wofford quickly got out to leads of 11-2 and 15-5. But when Courtney went to his bench, he got results. Ferry began and ended a 16-1 run with long balls, and Cornell took a 26-20 lead.

"I wanted to take some pressure off them," Courtney said. "You could tell they were feeling the pressure to win. I wanted to bring those guys off the bench. I wanted those guys to understand it was going to take all 16 of us to win."

Cornell plays two home games before its Ivy League opener on Jan. 15 at Columbia: against Buffalo on Monday and Stony Brook on Jan. 8.

Well, the losing streak is over. Cornell ends six weeks of frustrating futility with an 86-80 win over Wofford.

It only took a near-record shooting night to get Cornell off the schneid. When Errick Peck gave the Big Red its largest lead at 69-52 with just under 12 minutes to play, it was the team's 27th field goal in 33 attempts. That's .818 percent shooting through 28 minutes. From the arc, the team was 14 for 17 at that point. Incredible. And it was enough. Not by much. But it was enough. Boy, did they need it.

Cornell missed 14 of its last 17 field goal attempts and still shot 63.8% for the game. It missed 10 of its first 17 free throws -- all in the second half -- but made its final four to hold Wofford off. Drew Ferry had 25 points on 8-of-9 shooting. Chris Wroblewski had 21 points, 12 assists and five rebounds on 5-of-8 shooting. Make no mistake - Wofford is one of the toughest teams on Cornell's non-league schedule. The SoCon is a very good mid-major conference, and Wofford is the defending champion with all but one key piece back.

Bill Courtney shook things up by starting Pete McMillan, Miles Asafo-Adjei, Josh Figini and Manny Sahota alongside Peck (who has now put five straight productive efforts together). He said he did it to take pressure off the regulars, who struggled at key times in Wednesday's two-point loss to New Hampshire, and who've clearly lacked their normal confidence since blowing the double-digit lead to Binghamton on Dec. 18.

Courtney will never admit it - and he stuck to his "take pressure off the guys" line during a postgame phone interview - but to me, one fact suggests that there was more to his starting lineup decision. Wroblewski, the most accomplished player on Cornell's team, didn't enter the game for the first time until the 10:02 mark of the first half, and he was the last of the regulars to check in. Freshman Jake Matthews got off the bench before Wroblewski, who has endured a difficult stretch of unproductive basketball over the last 4-5 games. To me, that's not a pressure-reliever decision. That's a calculated message, pure and simple, to the most important player on this Cornell team: you must play better. (Again, just my take. Feel free to disagree.)

It was a risky decision by Courtney, with potential consequences short term and long term. Short term, considering Cornell fell behind by scores of 11-2, 15-5, 19-10 and again had to expend extra energy to get back in the game. Long term, because you can't predict if a move like that, particularly if it backfires, will have an adverse effect on the coach-player relationship down the line. If there's one player on the
2010-11 roster who's earned the right to play himself out of a slump, it's Wroblewski.

Courtney acknowledged there was risk to the move, when he spoke of taking pressure off Wroblewski and the other regular starters.

"It was a gamble to do it," he said.

It also, without question, worked. Wroblewski likely played the best all-around game of his three-year career tonight, despite missing a few key free throws he typically makes. His decision-making was "outstanding," Courtney said. He shot the ball well, defended well, distributed well and played with a chip on his shoulder.

One other interesting point: when asked if tonight's offensive efficiency was, in part, a product of better and more consistent execution of the team's halfcourt sets, the answer was "No."

"Balls went into the basket," he said. "That's the only way to describe it. We got better shots last night (against New Hampshire) that we just didn't make. For whatever reason, we shot with a free mind."

Does this win mean Cornell's issues are fixed? No. It simply means an infusion of confidence for Monday's game against Buffalo at Newman Arena, and nothing more. Win that one, and it's an infusion of confidence for Stony Brook on Jan. 8. Then, New York City and Columbia on Jan. 15. After all, this is still a team searching for consistency across all platforms - inside and outside, offense and defense, rotations, player production, coaching production. Courtney said, "Hopefully this gets us going."


This may mean nothing, but it may mean something. Store it away for a date down the road. But if the Wofford win ends up getting Cornell back to playing the kind of basketball it's capable of (and that may not be Ivy title-type basketball, but it should be winning basketball), then I think one particular play needs to be acknowledged.

Cornell's largest lead tonight was 69-52 with just under 12 minutes remaining. By the 7:37 mark, a Noah Dahlman three-point play had made it a 70-63 game. During that stretch, Cornell missed seven straight shots, made 1 of 2 free throws and turned the ball over twice. With so much time left, it was the ideal moment for Wofford to apply more pressure, continue cutting into the deficit and set up a situation, for example, of making it a one-possession game, either way, heading into the final four minutes. The type of situation Cornell hasn't been successful in this season.

Instead, Errick Peck came up with a huge block of Dahlman, who otherwise had little trouble scoring underneath. That block triggered a break, and Wroblewski drilled a 3 for a 73-63 lead. The entire game changed at that point. Wofford responded by turning the ball over, and then the game dragged out and fluctuated. Wofford's momentum sputtered. In the end, that sequence may not have decided the outcome, but plays like those stop runs - and those are the plays Cornell hasn't been getting. At the time, I made a note after that sequence: "Season Saver???" Don't know yet, but it was an important five to seven-point swing for Cornell tonight. Just as it seemed to me that Wofford was going to take control of the game, Peck and Wroblewski made sure it didn't happen.

Peck's now averaging double figures. He scored 16 against Wofford on 6-for-9 shooting in 24 minutes. On the season, he's scoring at a 10.3 ppg clip.

ODD FACT OF THE DAY: Cornell is 3-1 this season when Wroblewski doesn't start (Delaware, Wofford), or doesn't play (Albany, Seton Hall). Weird.


Courtney said Max Groebe didn't play tonight with symptoms the staff thought were signs of a concussion suffered in the New Hampshire loss on Wednesday.

VCU hammered New Hampshire in the championship game tonight, 78-65. For Cornell, Drew Ferry was named to the All-Tournament team.

Box Score

RICHMOND, Va. -- For a long stretch during Thursday night's 86-80 victory over defending Southern Conference champion Wofford, people watching the game must have felt the Cornell men's basketball team couldn't miss. They were very nearly right. Cornell made 18 straight shots, hit 15 3-pointers (on 71 percent shooting) and made 64 percent of its shots overall to snap an eight-game skid and improve to 3-9 overall. Wofford, who has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, dropped the third-place game at the Richmond Marriott Holidays on the Hardwood Tournament to fall to 5-8.

The Big Red made the final seven shots of the first half and the first 11 of the second, including eight from beyond the arc. With 10 minutes left in the game, the Big Red was shooting 82 percent from the floor (27-of-33) and 80 percent from 3-point range (12-of-15). Though Cornell cooled off some late, its .638 from the floor as a team ranks sixth in a single game, while its .714 from 3-point range is the second-best in school history.The team's 15 3-pointers is tied for the third-most in a game in Cornell history.

Leading the way for the Big Red was the backcourt of juniors Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry, who combined to make 11-of-12 from beyond the arc. Wroblewski scored 21 points and had a career-high 12 assists with jusut one turnover while adding five rebounds. He made all four of his 3-pointers. Wroblewski's 12 assists ranks second in a single game at Cornell. Ferry drilled a career-high 25 points, making his first seven 3-pointers and ending the game 7-of-8 from deep. Sophomore Errick Peck scored 16 with three boards and Aaron Osgood notched 12 points.

Wofford, whose losses include games at Minnesota, Clemson, Georgetown, Xavier, South Carolina and VCU, shot 56 percent from the field and 47 percent from beyond the arc in the defeat. Reigning conference player of the year Noah Dahlman had 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting, while Cameron Rundles notched 20 points and both Tim Johnson and Jamar Diggs had 10 apiece. Johnson added a game-high 11 rebounds, nearly gathering half of his team's boards (23 team rebounds).

The first half was a shootout, as Cornell shot 73 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes and the Terriers hit on 65 percent as the Big Red went into the break up 40-38. A shakeup in the starting lineup brought increased energy despite falling behind early, as a pair of players (Josh Figini and Manny Sahota) who didn't enter Wednesday's loss to New Hampshire) opening the game earned their first career starts. Also in the lineup was Miles Asafo-Adjei and Peter McMillan, who combined to play 11 minutes the previous day, along with Peck.

Cornell got the first basket of the game on a driving layup by Peck, but the Terriers ran off 11 straight points over the next three minutes. After making its first six shots Wofford finally missed five and a half minutes in and Cornell started to answer.

Wroblewski's first field goal of the game cut it to 20-17, and his 3-pointer a minute later tied the game with just over eight minutes to play in the half. His searching dribble on the next possession found Wire for a trey to make it 23-20. A loose ball on the next play ended up in the hands of Ferry and the junior canned a 3-pointer to make it 26-20 with 7:08 left to extend the run to 21-5.

The first half went back and forth until the Terriers went up 38-37 when Kevin Giltner shot-faked and went right to evade a defender, then calmly drained a trey with 44 seconds to play. Cornel lcalmly ran the offense and waited for the final shot. Much like the Boston University game, Wroblewski dribbled the final 10 seconds off the clock from the top of the key and pulled up for an NBA-range 3-pointer, which he nailed to send Cornell into the break leading by two.

After sitting the first 10 minutes, Wroblewski had eight points and seven assists the rest of the half, including knocking down both of his 3-pointers. In all, 12 different players earned first half playing time. Ferry connected on all three of his 3-pointers for a team-best nine points, while Osgood joined Wroblewski with eight points. Cameron Rundles scored 11 first half points to lead all players, while Giltner had nine and Dahlman scored eight.

The second half began with consecutive treys by Ferry and Wroblewski to extend the lead to 46-40 a minute into the second half. Cornell continued to hit the 3-pointers, as Ferry and Peck drained deep shts to make the Big Red 12-of-15 for the game from beyond the arc with 15 minutes left in the second half. When Ferry hit his sixth trey without a miss a minute later the game went to 59-48 Big Red. Ferry made his seventh without a miss with 13:27 left to make it 64-50.

Ferry hit a driving layup to push the lead to 66-50, and after a Big Red steal, Wofford's Tim Johnson hammered Wroblewski on the break to draw an intentional foul. The junior hit the first of two free throws to make the lead 17. A running jumper in the lane by Peck was the 18th consecutive make as he restored a 17-point lead to the Big Red with 11:34 left. At the 10:11 mark, Wroblewski missed an off-balance jumper and Osgood's foolw was blocked for Cornell's first misses of the second half. Methodically, Wofford, a 26-win team a season ago that returned seven of its top eight scorers, worked its way back into the game. Eight straight points by Wofford cut the deficit to nine with 8:45 remaining.

The lead bounced between 8-10 points until a tip-in by Dahlman with five minutes left got Wofford to within six at 75-69, but a basket by Osgood on a great feed from Wroblewski, followed by two free-throws by the junior, extended it back to 10. A 3-pointer by Rundles cut the lead back to six (80-74) with 1:42 left, and eventually got back to four in large part thanks to poor free-throw shoting down the stretch, While Cornell was red-hot from the floor, the team made just 11-of-21 from the charity stripe (52 percent) in a statistical oddity, but made the final four with two from Peck and two more by Ferry in the final 24 seconds to seal the win.

The Big Red return to action to open the New Year when it plays host to Buffalo on Monday, Jan. 3 at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena in Bartels Hall.

Game Box (pdf)

RICHMOND, Va. – Thursday afternoon the Wofford men’s basketball team was defeated 86-80 by Cornell in the Richmond Marriott Holidays on the Hardwood Classic at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The Big Red hit 18 straight shots during a stretch of the game and was 15-of-21 from three in the contest.

Wofford is 5-8 on the season and Cornell is 3-9 overall. The Terriers were led by with Noah Dahlman with 25 points and Cameron Rundles with 20 points. Tim Johnson had a double-double with ten points and eleven rebounds. The Big Red was led by Drew Ferry with 25 points as he was 7-of-8 from three. Chris Wroblewski added four three pointers for 21 total points.

The Big Red scored first, but then the Terriers scored the next eleven points. Cornell hit a three with 15:29 on the clock to end the run. Four minutes later, the Terriers held a 17-8 advantage after a lay-up by Noah Dahlman. The Big Red was then able to go on an 18-3 run and took a 26-20 lead at 7:08 with three straight three-pointers.

Wofford ended the run with a bucket and then a free throw by Tim Johnson and added a three by Kevin Giltner to make cut the lead to 28-26 at the 3:59 mark in the first half. Wofford was able to regain the lead at 38-37 after a three by Kevin Gilter with 38 seconds on the clock, but the Big Red added a three by Chris Wroblewski with two seconds left to take a 40-38 lead at the break. Cornell shot 72.7% in the first half, including 8-of-11 from three, while Wofford was 65.2% from the floor and 6-of-9 from three.

To open the second half Cornell added two more threes and it was a 48-42 lead for the Big Red just two minutes into play. Cornell kept it up with two more three pointers and had a 56-48 advantage at the 15:10 mark of the second half. After the sixth three pointer of the day by Drew Ferry, the Cornell was up 59-48. Ferry added another three for a 64-50 lead at the 13:27 mark.

Cornell was able to extend the lead and had a 69-54 advantage with 10:59 on the clock. Wofford then used a quick 8-0 run to cut the lead to 69-60 with 8:39 left in the second half. Two free throws by Noah Dahlman made it a 73-67 game at 5:33, but the Big Red pushed the lead back to ten-points at 79-69 with 3:41 on the clock.

A bucket by Noah Dahlman and a three by Cameron Rundles made it an 80-74 score with 1:41 left on the clock. It remained a six-point game with 44 seconds left at 82-76 after a lay-up by Noah Dahlman. Free throw shooting down the stretch pushed the Big Red lead to eight until Cameron Rundles hit a jumper with two seconds left for the 86-80 final margin.

Wofford shot a 55.6% from the floor and were 46.7% from three. From the free throw line, the Terriers were 86.7%. Cornell was 63.8% overall and were 71.4% from behind the arc. They were 52.4% from the line. Rebounds were even at 23. Noah Dahlman fouled out with 33 seconds left in the game.

The Terriers return home on January 6 against The Citadel at 7:00 pm and will also be at Benjamin Johnson Arena on Saturday, January 8 against the College of Charleston. The contest against the Cougars is slated for a 6:00 pm start and will air on CSS.


Anonymous said...

Courtney's feeling the pressure. His 'shake-up' move is a sign of desperation because he knows that Cornell results point to bad coaching. Mixing up the lineup is his message to the public that he is 'doing stuff', however ridiculous it might be.

- nearly winless in tight games (< 5 pts)
- numerous leads blown when victory in sight
- adjustments by opposing coaches not counter-adjusted
- halfway through season and still can't figure out who to play
- is working with the best talent he'll ever have at Cornell and can't make it work
- is clearly turning out to be a good asst coach or D3 head
- sucks that he has to find the limits of his ability on our watch

Anonymous said...

save it, dude. if you are going to make a post like that, at least have the cojones to put your name with it. otherwise, it is just garbage.