By Brian Delaney
January 16, 2011
NEW YORK -- Columbia snapped a nine-game losing streak to Cornell, getting big play after big play to withstand a ferocious Big Red comeback in a 79-75 victory Saturday night at Levien Gymnasium.
It was the Ivy League men's basketball opener for both teams.
Cornell, the three-time defending champion, lost its league opener for the first time since 2005.
Columbia's backcourt of junior Noruwa Agho and sophomore Brian Barbour scored 25 and 21 points, respectively. The pair was key down the stretch, as Cornell fought back from a 14-point halftime deficit.
The Big Red's Drew Ferry made seven of eight 3-point shots after halftime, most of which came with a hand in his face.
Cornell endured a dismal first half offensively, shooting 29.4 percent and missing 10 of 11 from the arc.
Three key Cornell frontcourt members, Mark Coury, Aaron Osgood and Adam Wire, were saddled with foul trouble.
Cornell shot 62.1 percent in the second half (18-for-29), and pulled within a possession five times down the stretch, but the Lions (10-5, 1-0) had an answer each time.
Freshman Steve Frankoski sank two free throws with 18 seconds left to make it 78-75. Cornell's Chris Wroblewski (14 points, seven assists) missed a 3-pointer, and Agho made one of two from the line with six seconds left to ice it.
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A wild and frenetic second half ended the way so may of Cornell's games have during the 2010-11 season ... with a narrow loss. The Big Red nearly overcame a 14-point halftime deficit and missed a shot to tie with 13 seconds to play in a 79-75 loss at Columbia on Saturday evening at Levien Gymnasium. Cornell dropped to 4-11 (0-1 Ivy), while the Lions improved to 10-5 (1-0 Ivy) in the Ivy opener for both squads.
Junior guard Drew Ferry scored 23 points and hit on seven 3-pointers, including six in the second half, while both Errick Peck and Chris Wroblewski scored 14 points apiece. Peck added six rebound and three blocked shots, while Wroblewski was credited with seven assists. The visitors shot 62 percent from the floor after halftime and 70 percent from 3-point range (7-of-10) after the break. Cornell outscored the Lions 52-42 after halftime, cutting the deficit to one at one point before falling. The Big Red defense forced 18 Columbia turnovers, with nine steals and six blocked shots. Senior Adam Wire chipped in with eight points, five rebounds and two steals and Aaron Osgood recorded a team-high seven rebounds, blocked two shots and stole two passes.
Noruwa Agho scored a game-high 25 points, including a backbreaking 3-pointer late in the shot clock with less than two minutes to play in regulation. He added six rebounds to his totals. Brian Barbour scored 21 points and hit all seven of his free throws and Both Mark Cisco (14 points, seven rebounds) and Steve Frankoski (11 points, four rebounds) were also in double figures. The Lions hit on 47 percent of its field goals and limited the backcourt of Ferry and Wroblewski to 1-of-16 shooting in the first 20 minutes to take a lead the Big Red could never overcome.
MORE INFO TO COME
The Big Red returns to action on Saturday, Jan. 22 when it faces the same Lions at Newman Arena in Bartels Hall. Gametime is set for 4:30 p.m.
The Columbia Spectator
Starting off Ivy League play with two games against Cornell each season has always been a struggle for the Lions. In fact, they haven’t beaten the Big Red since 2006, starting the past four seasons in an 0-2 hole.
Tonight at Levien gymnasium, those “Beat Cornell” shirts all around campus finally came through with their prediction. The Light Blue beat the defending Ancient Eight champs 79-75 in front of a packed house of 2,104 fans.
After jumping out to a 37-23 halftime lead, the Lions struggled in the second half, allowing Cornell to sneak back into the game until cutting it to 76-75 with only one minute left. The Light Blue held on for the win thanks to some clutch free throw shooting late in the game.
“We’ve had leads of fourteen points or more and let them slip, so I think everyone’s a little more comfortable,” point guard Brian Barbour said. “Everyone’s a little less nervous. We’re like, ‘We’ve been here before, and we can pull this one off.’”
The Lions jumped out to the 14-point lead thanks to junior shooting guard Noruwa Agho’s 11 points, who eventually finished with a team high 25. The Lions also held the Big Red to 29.4 percent shooting from the field in the first twenty minutes, highlighted by junior guard Chris Wroblewski’s 0-for-10 performance to start the game. This was a stunning change of play from his last game against Stony Brook, where he shot 8-13 from the field for 29 points.
“We tried to focus on his tendencies," Agho said. "We had a great scout, we kind of knew what he liked, and guys played good solid defense. We didn’t try to do too much, just keep the ball in front and get a hand on the shot. You know, he’s a great player, and I’m sure he won’t start 0-11 the rest of the season.”
The comeback was largely fueled by Cornell guard Drew Ferry, who led the Big Red with 23 points—21 of which came off his 7-11 three-point shooting.
“The only thing you can really do is switch [the run around the pick],” Agho said. “Sometimes there’s only so much you can do.”
Head coach Kyle Smith agreed.
“That was one of the best performances I’ve seen in this gym,” he said.
Of course, Smith hasn’t seen to many games at Levien in his first season sitting on the bench, so he wasn’t around last year to watch Cornell’s dominating center Jeff Foote in action.
“Last year they gave it to Jeff Foote, and he takes the ball and makes a move,” sophomore center Mark Cisco said. “This year they have a lot more ball screens so you’re focusing on the plays instead of just him.”
The Lions will hope to continue their success next week when they travel up to Ithaca for a rematch. Perhaps Cornell will be the New York team to start off the season in an 0-2 hole this time around.