By Brian Delaney
ITHACA -- It's like a scratched record that keeps skipping. The Cornell men's basketball team simply can't figure out how to win a close game. Good enough to keep it close, regardless of opponent. Not good enough to stop itself snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
While his players took questions from the media in the bowels of Bartels Hall, Cornell coach Bill Courtney slipped into a hallway just outside the home locker room and, hands over his face, sunk to the cold, hard floor. The frustration, after Cornell's 12th loss in 16 games, was laid bare.
"This one's very tough, obviously, losing at home," he said, before adding, "It's hard to see positives right now, that's for sure. ... It's such a stinging loss."
Columbia trailed for the majority of Saturday's Ivy League game, but made more productive plays over the final 2 minutes for a 70-66 victory.
The Lions (11-5, 2-0 Ivy) swept the season series, winning both games by four points while establishing themselves as an upper-tier Ivy team.
Columbia has won nine of its last 11. None of those games were decided by more than six points. Cornell has now lost eight games this season by a margin of five points or less. The two teams, both relatively young, are comparable on paper. Yet the gap is wide.
"You can simulate all you want in practice, it's still not the same," said Columbia coach Kyle Smith when asked why his team has been successful in close games. "Winning breeds confidence. It's just experience. That's the best I can say."
Smith's point guard, sophomore Brian Barbour, once again gashed the Big Red. He scored 23 points and finished the season series with 44. He also got timely help.
Agho, who entered the game leading the Ivy League in scoring, finished with six points on 1-for-12 shooting.
"The attention he draws is unbelievable," Barbour said. "Even when he's having a tough night. He's still passing well, and they're still going to lock up on him because at a moment he can get it going."
Said Smith: "He doesn't need to hit 23 for us to win. He does a lot of other things that help us win, leadership-wise."
Last week, Cornell overcame foul trouble to its frontcourt and a tough shooting night from junior guard Chris Wroblewski to erase a 14-point halftime deficit in a 79-75 loss.
On Saturday, Wroblewski picked up his fourth foul with 10:50 remaining ("That had a huge effect on the game," Courtney said), Cornell never discovered its touch from the three-point arc-- and yet the Big Red still nearly won.
Cornell was 3-for-16 from the perimeter, and junior guard Drew Ferry -- who scored 23 points last Saturday -- was held to five points. Cornell (4-12, 0-2) lost a league home game for the first time in 23 games. It led by as many as 10 points in the first half, and twice led by nine. But no lead was big enough.
"It all comes down to getting a couple stops at the end," Cornell forward Adam Wire said. "I mean, we're right there every game."
The challenge gets no easier. Cornell plays its next four on the road, beginning with its first Friday-Saturday swing through Dartmouth and Harvard.
The Big Red is confident it can play anybody close. But playing an opponent close and winning?
That still hasn't been determined.
"It's another of those close-game losses," said senior center Aaron Osgood, who had 16 points. "We've had way too many. We're going to keep working hard and get a win. Once we start getting more wins, the confidence can grow. We're going to work to get that win, and work for those crucial stops. We have to get those."
By Quintin Schwab
Cornell Daily Sun
The Cornell men’s basketball team lost its second straight game to Columbia on Saturday, and the second straight by just four points. After being swept in the season series against the Lions, the Red fell to 0-2 in the Ivy League for the first time since the 2001-02 season — the last season in which Columbia swept Cornell.
Cornell (4-12, 0-2 Ivy League) continued its season-long habit of faltering down the stretch in contested games, losing 70-66 at Newman Arena in its Ivy League home-opener after falling, 79-75, Jan. 15 in New York City. The Lions (11-5, 2-0) made six straight free throws in the last minute and 15 seconds, as the Red missed the mark and failed to corral rebounds in the final handful of plays.
“We have to find a way to get that crucial stop or crucial rebound,” said senior forward and tri-captain Aaron Osgood, who had 16 points and six rebounds after scoring only 13 in the previous three games combined. “We’ve been in every game we’ve played besides against Syracuse practically, but we just have to learn to finish.”
Sophomore guard Brain Barbour scored 23 points for the Lions, making several tough shots to break down the Red defense. While Cornell was able to hold Columbia’s leading scorer, junior guard Noruwa Agho, to six points on 1-of-12 shooting after his 25 points last Saturday, eight other Lions got on the board to lift Columbia to the top of the Ivy League standings along with Harvard and Yale.
Junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewksi also scored 16 points for the Red, but was only 4-of-11 from the field and 1-of-4 from 3-point range.
“I’m not satisfied with the way I’ve been playing the last couple of games,” Wroblewski said. “I can’t let other parts of my game fall because of bad shooting.”
Despite missing five of its first six 3-point attempts, and 13 of 16 overall, the Red jumped out to a 17-7 lead, held a 32-23 advantage and went up 63-61 on Wroblewski’s driving basket with 2:20 remaining.
But the last lead of the game for Cornell quickly disappeared when Columbia sophomore forward John Daniels hit a jump shot on the ensuing possession. Wroblewksi then turned it over and Daniels converted two free throws.
Afterwards, Red sophomore forward Errick Peck had his shot in the lane blocked by Agho, who made two free throws following an offensive rebound to give the Lions a 67-63 lead with 20 seconds left.
Peck, who missed his first seven shots from the field, shook off a slow start to finish with 10 points and six rebounds.
“I think I may have forced too many shots throughout the game,” Peck said. “In the second half I was able to let the game come to me more, but overall I did not have a good offensive game.”
Junior guard Andrew Ferry scored only five points after hitting double figures in seven of the last eight contests. He made 2-of-10 field goals — the fourth time this year he shot 20 percent or less in a game.
The Red committed only 11 turnovers to Columbia’s 16 (the Lions shot just as poorly from long range), but was out-rebounded, 38-32, and out-played down the stretch. Cornell has now lost by no more than five points in eight of its 12 defeats.
“We’ve just got to move past these losses,” Wroblewski said. “We can’t get down on ourselves and must look forward to next weekend.”
Having six ties in the final 15 minutes of a game, which is what happened on Saturday afternoon, is nothing unusual for Cornell. The Red just hasn’t been able to close out games strongly.
“We really can’t lose any more games,” Peck said. “It’s disappointing the way this season has turned out, but there’s no such thing as ‘too late’. … We’ll just take it one game at a time and do everything we can to improve.”
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Columbia earned a season sweep of Cornell for the first time in nine seasons when it held on a for a 70-66 victory over the Big Red on Saturday afternoon at Newman Arena. Cornell fell to 4-12 (0-2 Ivy) with the loss, while Columbia improved to 11-5 (2-0 Ivy).
Chris Wroblewski (16 points, five rebounds, three assists) and Aaron Osgood (16 points, six rebounds) led the Big Red offense, while Errick Peck (10 points, six rebounds, three steals, two assists, two blocked shots) also hit for double figures. Cornell shots just 19 percent from 3-point range (3-of-16) and were chased off the line effectively all night by the Lions. Adam Wire played an outstanding floor game with eight points, seven rebounds and two steals without a turnover in 32 minutes.
The Lions got 23 big points from Brian Barbour, who made tough shot after tough shot to keep Cornell from running away with the game in the second half. Meiko Lyles added 10 points in 16 minutes off the bench as the only other Lion in double figures. Leading scorer Noruwa Agho was limited to 1-of-12 shooting by the Big Red defense, but the junior was able to end the night with six points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. Columbia shot 50 percent from the floor in the first half and 43 percent for the game, but just 3-of-15 from beyond the arc.
The Big Red led by as many as 10 points early after jumping out to a 17-7 edge on a jumper by Wroblewski. The Lions tied the game at 21-21 before an 11-2 run that featured a pair of transition baskets, including a 3-pointer by Jake Matthews, gave the home squad a 32-23 edge with six minutes to play in the half. The visitors got back within two late on a dunk by John Daniels, but Miles Asafo-Adjei ran down the court and was fouled with one second on the clock. He hit the first of his two charity attempts to send the home team into the locker room leading 40-37.
The lead never went past five for Cornell in the second half, and the game featured six ties in the final 15 minutes, with the last coming at 61-61 after Ferry hit a short runner in the lane on a play that was made by Wire. Less than 45 seconds later, Wroblewski gave Cornell its final lead when his driving basket gave the Big Red a 63-61 advantage.
Daniels hit a 16-footer to knot the score, then gave the visitors a lead with 1:14 left on two free throws by the sophomore to go up 65-63.
With under a minute to play, Cornell went to Peck, who got into the lane but had his shot blocked by Agho. The Lions rebounded, and after drawing a foul, extended the lead to four on a pair of Agho free throws. A missed 3-pointer gave the ball back to Columbia and Barbour canned a pair of shots from the stripe with 10 seconds remaining to go up 69-63. Wroblewski hit a late 3-pointer, but it wasn't enough to get Cornell back in position to tie.
The Big Red hit the road for its first league road weekend when it visits Dartmouth on Friday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. and Harvard on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m.
ITHACA, N.Y. - Columbia took its first lead of the game at the 14-minute mark of the second half, then took its first four-point lead of the game with five minutes left in the game. Each time, Cornell regained the lead but Columbia went ahead in the end on four straight points by John Daniels and held on for a 70-66 victory over the Big Red at Newman Arena. Brian Barbour was terrific for the Lions, going for a career-high 23 points with four rebounds and three assists. In his second collegiate game, Meiko Lyles came off the bench to score 10 points, including a pair of three-pointers. Cornell led 40-37 after a sloppy first half on both ends. Cornell took a 45-40 lead on Drew Ferry's only three-pointer of the game at the 18-minute mark, but the Lions went on a 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game, 49-47, with 14:27 remaining on a basket by Asenso Ampim. Cornell regained the lead but never pushed it past the four-point mark. After Errick Peck made one of two free throws to make it a 57-55 game in Cornell's favor, Barbour made two free throws and then made an off-balance jumper to put the Lions back in front. Noruwa Agho, who had four assists in the game, found Ampim cutting to the hoop on the next possession to push Columbia's lead to four, but Cornell scored the next six points to regain a 63-61 edge with 2:18 remaining, prompting a Columbia timeout. After the timeout, Mark Cisco found John Daniels at the foul line and Daniels drilled a 15-footer to tie the game. Barbour then made a steal on one end, Daniels drew contact down low and sank a pair of free throws to put the Lions ahead to stay at the 1:14 mark. Leading by two, Columbia got a huge block by Agho on a potential tying layup by Peck, and Steve Frankoski corralled the loose ball with less than a minute to play. After Barbour missed a runner in the lane, Agho came up with a huge offensive rebound, was fouled, and made both of his free throws to give the Lions a four-point advantage. A three ball by Chris Wroblewski made it 69-66 with 5.3 seconds left but Frankoski converted one of two from the foul line to make it a four-point game, giving the Lions their fourth straight victory. Barbour's 23 were a career high after he had matched his previous career high of 21 in last week's game with Cornell. Wroblewski and Aaron Osgood had 16 points apiece for the Big Red, which also got 10 points and six boards from Peck. Columbia (11-5, 2-0 Ivy League) is back in action on Friday at Harvard, which also improved to 2-0 in the Ivy League on Saturday with a win against Dartmouth. Game time in Boston is 7 p.m. NOTES: Columbia won for the eighth time in its previous nine games ... it is the second time this season that Columbia has won four games in a row ... Columbia last started the season at 2-0 in the Ivy League in the 1999-2000 season ... the Lions swept the season series with Cornell for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign ... it was Columbia's first win at Cornell in five seasons ... the win snapped Cornell's 22-game home win streak vs. Ivy League opponents ... each team made just three three-point field goals ... there were 44 fouls called in the game ... Brian Barbour is averaging 17.7 points per game in Columbia's lsat six games ... Mark Cisco posted a blocked shot for the fourth straight game ... Columbia matched its win total from last season ... the Lions outrebounded Cornell 38-32 ... the Lions have outrebounded their opponent 12 times this season.
The men's basketball team defeated Cornell, 70-66, for the second week in a row. The Light Blue is 2-0 in conference play for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.
Cajones is not technically an adjective, but it was all coach Kyle Smith could muster to describe his team after it pulled out another nail biter, downing Cornell, 70-66, Saturday at Newman Arena.
In doing so the Lions not only improved to 2-0 in the Ancient Eight, but they also snapped the Big Red’s 22-game home win streak in league play.
This was despite just six points from Noruwa Agho, trailing nearly the entire game, and committing 11 first-half turnovers.
“I wish I knew,” Smith said in seeking to explain his team’s 9-2 record in games decided by five points or fewer.
One reason is the recent play of sophomore point guard Brian Barbour. After tying his career-high of 21 points in the first meeting with Cornell, Barbour set a new mark of 23 on Saturday.
“He’s just playing great,” Agho said. “He’s fun to watch. Sometimes I sit back and watch him on offense.”
Barbour’s scoring outburst saved the Lions in a game where Agho had one of the worst offensive performances of his Columbia career, shooting just 1-for-12 from the field. He did have six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks, but even Agho admitted something was amiss.
“I think I forced it a little bit too much tonight,” he said. “I had a predetermined plan for what I wanted to do and you can never play like that.”
Agho wasn’t the only one in a funk in the first half. The Lions were collectively sluggish early and the Big Red took advantage, racing out to an early 15-6 lead. Solid play from Barbour and the bench helped the Light Blue close the gap to one briefly, but then Cornell opened up the lead to nine points again with six and a half minutes left in the half.
“We took a pretty good haymaker early and we were able to hang there,” Smith said. “It wasn’t pretty but we got it done.”
While one factor was great passing on the part of the Big Red, sloppy play plagued the Light Blue for the second week in a row. After 18 turnovers in their first meeting, Columbia turned it over 11 times in the first period alone.
At around the five-minute mark, the Lions seemed to snap out of their malaise. Agho soon hit his only field goal of the game as the Lions cut the lead to five with 2:52 left in the half. They had a chance to go into the break tied after starting a break with a steal, but Steve Frankoski threw the ball away and Cornell entered the half with a 40-37 lead.
In many ways the Lions were fortunate to be so close, in no small part because early fouls put Cornell in the bonus for the final nine minutes.
Foul trouble was again a problem in the second half, when both teams spent the final 10 minutes shooting seemingly endless amounts of free throws.
“It was tough but they called it tight both ways,” Agho said.
The officiating was consistently strict, but the Big Red took the biggest hit as Chris Wroblewski spent large portions of the second half on the pine with foul trouble.
“I think it hurt them significantly,” Smith said of the foul trouble. “We made our run there in the second half when Wroblewski went to the bench.”
The Light Blue finally pulled even at 52 with ten minutes to play and from then on it was a seesaw affair. They took their first lead at the 6:29 mark, but Cornell soon took the lead back on a Wroblweski layup.
With just 2:01 left John Daniels showed the self-assurance Smith was talking about. He hit a jumper from the elbow to tie it and sank a pair of big free throws to give his team the lead. Oh, Daniels is just an 45.8 percent free-throw shooter.
“We all play with confidence,” Agho said. “I think that’s huge. [Daniels] comes down and bangs a foul-line j and two free throws at the end the game. That might have been his first basket of the game, but he doesn’t waver.”
Though it remained close, the Lions held on to that lead until time expired thanks to strong defense. Cornell’s lone basket was a Wroblewski three with the game almost out of reach—the only three Wroblewski made in either game against the Lions. Both Wroblewski and fellow sharpshooter Drew Ferry were largely silent, shooting 6-21 from the floor and 2-12 from long range combined.
“Staying on their hip, making sure they didn’t have a lot of space and fighting over their screens,” Meiko Lyles said of how they shut down the Big Red shoots. “They set a lot of screens so staying tight on them was important.”
As significant as the win was, attention immediately shifted to next Friday’s game at Harvard, where sustained defensive intensity will be even more critical. The media picked the Crimson to win the league at the start of the year, and like Columbia, Harvard has started with a pair of wins.
Smith said he hadn’t seen much of his next opponent, but poked fun at the attention it has gotten. “If you read ESPN at all, which I try not to, there’s usually an article a week,” Smith said. “It’s Duke northeast a little bit."