Sunday, January 30, 2011

Game Recaps: Big Red Fall at Harvard

Below, recaps of Cornell's defeat at Harvard on Saturday night...

Multi-faceted Harvard downs Cornell
Shot of Ivy basketball four-peat fading for Big Red

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Cornell dug itself into an emotional hole with Friday night's disappearing act.

A loaded Harvard team, poised to challenge for its first Ivy League men's basketball championship, sure wasn't about to let the Big Red climb out at its expense Saturday.

Harvard has inside-outside balance, six quality options on offense, a disciplined commitment to the defensive end and an unselfish nature.

The Crimson mixed precise three-point shooting with tough play inside to pull away from Cornell, 78-57, Saturday at a nearly full Lavietes Pavilion.

Harvard (15-3) bumped its Ivy League record to 4-0. Cornell (4-14) dropped to 0-4, all but mathematically eliminated from winning a fourth straight Ivy title.

A rare sight in recent seasons, Cornell faced lopsided deficits on both nights of its first Friday-Saturday road swing. Cornell trailed by as many as 28 points in Friday's 64-57 loss at Dartmouth, and Harvard led by as many as 24 Saturday.

From an effort standpoint, Cornell coach Bill Courtney said the two nights are not comparable.

"I'm not ashamed at all of the effort the guys gave today," he said Saturday.

Keith Wright, Harvard's 6-foot-8 power forward, scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, nine offensive. Four other Crimson players finished in double figures, and the hosts hit 10 of 20 shots from beyond the 3-point arc. They had 17 assists on 27 baskets, just four turnovers and converted 13 Cornell turnovers into 22 points. They shared the ball, found the open man and rarely, if at all, took a bad shot.

"Balance is the word for us," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "We talked about a team and program (Cornell) the last few years that had incredible balance, the way they've played. We are thinking along the lines of having really good balance. The inside-out combination for us is so critical."

Harvard turned the game in its favor with an 18-4 run early in the second half. The spurt started, as good teams tend to do, as a response to a threat from Cornell.

An Errick Peck three-point play cut Cornell's deficit to 43-38 barely 70 seconds into the second half. Wright scored four straight points, Kyle Casey dropped an acrobatic shot along the baseline and freshman Laurent Rivard banged a 3 to quickly stretch Harvard's lead to 14. From there, the Crimson cruised.

Peck spent most of the weekend battling a stomach bug and was limited to 17 minutes because of fatigue issues. Still, he managed 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting.

But Harvard harassed Cornell's two guards, Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry, into a tough offensive night. The pair combined for 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Without an interior threat, the Big Red couldn't relieve its guards of the pressure.

"I think we definitely played really hard physically," Wroblewski said. "I think we still had some mental lapses in the first half, the second half, too. We gave up some offensive rebounds, and we've got to start cutting those out of the game."

Courtney asked his predecessor, Steve Donahue, to speak to the team after the game. Donahue, now head coach at nearby Boston College, stayed longer after the final buzzer to speak individually with his former players.

"He said it perfect," said Courtney, referring to Donahue's locker-room talk. "These guys really care about each other, and they really care about Cornell and the program. So I don't think you'll see a group that will give up at all. You'll see a group that will fight every night. These are great kids with great character and nobody on this team's giving up."

Cornell is on the road next weekend with games against Yale on Friday and Brown on Saturday.

Rugged Harvard's balance too much for Cornell in basketball

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Cornell dug itself into an emotional hole with Friday night's disappearing act at Dartmouth. A loaded Harvard team, poised to challenge for its first Ivy League men's basketball championship, sure wasn't about to let the Big Red climb out at its expense.

Harvard has inside-outside balance, six quality options on offense, a disciplined commitment to the defensive end and an unselfish nature.

On Saturday, the Crimson mixed precise three-point shooting with tough play inside to pull away from Cornell, 78-57, at a nearly full Lavietes Pavilion.

Harvard bumped its overall record to 15-3, with a 4-0 mark in league play. Cornell dropped to 4-14 overall and 0-4, all but mathematically eliminated already from winning a fourth Ivy title.

A rare sight in recent seasons, Cornell faced lopsided deficits on both nights of its first Friday-Saturday road swing. Cornell trailed by as many as 28 points in Friday's 64-57 loss at Dartmouth, and Harvard led by as many as 24 on Saturday.

From an effort standpoint, Cornell coach Bill Courtney said the two nights are not comparable.

"I'm not ashamed at all of the effort the guys gave today," he said.

Keith Wright, Harvard's 6-foot-8 power forward, scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, nine offensive. Four other Crimson players finished in double figures, and the hosts hit 10 of 20 shots from the three-point arc. They had 17 assists on 27 baskets, just four turnovers and converted 13 Cornell turnovers into 22 points. They shared the ball, found the open man and rarely, if at all, took a bad shot.

"Balance is the word for us," Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. "We talked about a team and program (Cornell) the last few years that had incredible balance, the way they've played. We are thinking along the lines of having really good balance. The inside-out combination for us is so critical."

Harvard turned the game in its favor with an 18-4 run early in the second half. The spurt started, as good teams tend to do, as a response to a threat from Cornell. An Errick Peck three-point play cut Cornell's deficit to 43-38 barely 70 seconds into the second half. Wright scored four straight points, Kyle Casey dropped an acrobatic shot along the baseline and freshman Laurent Rivard banged a 3 to quickly stretch Harvard's lead to 14. From there, the Crimson cruised.
Peck spent most of the weekend battling a stomach bug and was limited to 17 minutes because of fatigue issues. Still, he managed 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting. But Harvard harassed Cornell's two guards, Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry, into a tough offensive night. The pair combined for 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting. Without an interior threat, the Big Red couldn't relieve its guards of the pressure to score.

"I think we definitely played really hard physically," Wroblewski said. "I think we still had some mental lapses in the first half, the second half, too. We gave up some offensive rebounds, and we've got to start cutting those out of the game."

Courtney asked his predecessor, Steve Donahue, to speak to the team after the game. Donahue, now head coach at nearby Boston College, stayed longer after the final buzzer to speak individually with his former players.

"He said it perfect," said Courtney, referring to Donahue's locker-room talk. "These guys really care about each other, and they really care about Cornell and the program. So I don't think you'll see a group that will give up at all. You'll see a group that will fight every night. These are great kids with great character and nobody on this team's giving up."

Cornell is on the road next weekend with games against Yale on Friday and Brown on Saturday.


Box Score

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Errick Peck scored 15 points for Cornell, but Harvard placed five layers in double figures in collecting a 78-57 victory over the Big Red on Saturday evening at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson improved to 15-3 (4-0 Ivy), while the Big Red slipped to 4-14 (0-4 Ivy).

Peck, despite suffering from a bug, hit on 6-of-8 field goals and added four rebounds and two assists in just 17 minutes. Chris Wroblewski added seven points, five assists and four rebounds and Miles Asafo-Adjei scored seven as well. Cornell outrebounded the Crimson 36-34, with Adam Wire grabbing eight boards and Mark Coury corralling six. Cornell shot 43 percent for the game.

Harvard got game-highs of 21 points and 11 rebounds from Keith Wright, while Kyle Casey scored 16 points with nine rebounds. Laurent Rivard (12), Christian Webster (10) and Brandyn Curry (10) also hit for double figures. Curry added seven assists and three blocked shots, while Oliver McNally was credited with seven assists as well. As a team, Harvard had 17 assists and just four turnovers and shot 47 percent from the field overall and 50 percent from 3-point range (10-of-20).

Cornell stayed within arm's length in the first half, though Rivard drilled a 3-pointer as the halftime horn sounded to give the home Crimson a 10-point halftime lead. Harvard led early by 10 (13-3) just 4:27 into the contest before the Big Red answered with a 7-0 run, with a steal and dunk by Wire and a 3-pointer by Drew Ferry bringing the visitors within three. Cornell got back within three at 30-27 on a Peck 3-pointer with just under four minutes to play in the half, but the Crimson ended the half on a 11-4 run to take a 41-31 lead into the break.

The Big Red got back within five early in the second half (43-38) on two quick baskets by Peck, includinga three-point play, and another by Wroblewski, but that triggered a 22-6 run over the next 11:19, as the lead grew to 21 (65-44) with 7:30 left. The advantage grew to as many as 24 late in the contest as the Crimson remained unbeaten in Ancient Eight play.

Cornell will remain on the road next weekend when it visits Yale (Friday, Feb. 4) and Brown (Saturday, Feb. 5).


By Frank Dell’Apa
Boston Globe

Any time a team captain contributes 21 points and 11 rebounds to a 21-point victory, he should expect praise. But after Keith Wright helped Harvard bury Cornell, 78-57, last night, he had to answer to coach Tommy Amaker.

“I thought those numbers should have been a lot better,’’ Amaker said. “You can look at a number of plays where he didn’t finish around the rim. But he still had a terrific game, a double-double. He certainly can do better and he’ll be the first to tell you that. Outstanding numbers, but the goal is be efficient as possible. This was a game where his numbers should have been even better, given the opportunities he had.’’

It was Wright’s best offensive output since early in the season. And the junior forward’s effectiveness on the low post helped open up Harvard’s perimeter game as the Crimson (15-3, 4-0 Ivy League) won their 13th successive game at home.

“I think he’s definitely right, I should have had better numbers,’’ Wright said of Amaker. “But overall, I picked it up in the second half. He told me what to do in the second half and I went and did it. I still think there’s always room for improvement. In the first half I was sluggish and as a team we missed some opportunities to kind of expand on the lead and grow as a team. So, there’s never satisfaction. There’s always room for improvement.’’

Harvard got off to a fast start, going on a 13-0 run early and closing the half with an 11-4 run. Cornell (4-14, 0-4) pulled within 5 points early in the second half, but Harvard responded with a 9-0 spurt and stretched its advantage to as many as 24.

“We’ve shown so far we can respond when we’re down in a number of situations, fight back and get ourselves back into the ballgame,’’ Amaker said. “But we haven’t been as good with a 6-7-8-point margin and we have a chance to push it over the top into double digits. We’ve really worked on that and talked about that. I was pleased when we had a chance to take it over 10-12 and be more efficient on the offensive end.’’

Wright led the way as Harvard went on an 8-0 run over a 1:54 span late in the first half. He drove to score, rebounded his own miss and assisted on a Christian Webster 3-pointer, hit a free throw, and scored on a follow for a 38-27 edge with 1:24 to go. Laurent Rivard gave Harvard a 41-31 halftime lead with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

Errick Peck’s 3-point play off a follow pulled the Big Red within 43-38, but Wright then sparked a 9-point Harvard run over 1:44. Wright scored twice in a 21-second span, then Kyle Casey made a baseline move, and Rivard sank a 3-pointer for a 52-38 advantage with 16:54 remaining.

Harvard has a realistic goal of winning the Ivy League this season, while defending champion Cornell is sinking fast.

“They smacked us last year and we came in here with a little extra juice, a little extra fire,’’ Wright said. “And I think we executed really well.’’

Wright scored a career-high 24 points against Bryant in the fourth game of the season but had not reached 20 points since.

As for the fast start, Wright said, “Being mentally, physically ready. Coach always says clear minds and fresh legs. We came out and we were ready to go. We executed at the beginning of the game and that leads to success.

“It’s nice to have a target on your back. That’s what we all came to Harvard to do, try and get a banner up here in the men’s basketball. That’s one of our goals as a team. Teams are definitely giving us their best shot. Obviously, it’s one day at a time, but we’ve all been working real hard, we’re growing as a team. That’s something we work real hard to do.’’

Harvard Crimson

What a difference one year can make.

A season removed from suffering two disappointing losses at the hands of Cornell, the Harvard men’s basketball team took a step toward gaining retribution against the three-time defending Ivy League champions Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion.

Led by its powerful front-court duo of junior co-captain Keith Wright and sophomore Kyle Casey, the Crimson (15-3, 4-0 Ivy) picked up a 78-57 victory against the Big Red (4-14, 0-4).

“They smacked us last year [on the road], and then we had a tough loss at home to them,” Casey said. “We all came in here with a little extra juice and a little extra fire, and I think we executed pretty well.”

After a disappointing first half in which Casey was held to just two points and one rebound, the forward exploded in the second half with 14 points and eight rebounds, helping Harvard extend its 10-point halftime lead up to 24.

But Casey wasn’t the only Crimson forward to put up big numbers.

Wright—Casey’s front-court mate in the starting lineup—picked up his seventh double-double of the season, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs.

While Wright and Casey provided strong production in the post, also crucial to the Crimson’s success was its guard play.

Harvard combined for 17 assists while committing just four turnovers, a season-low.

Junior guard Oliver McNally and sophomore guard Brandy Curry led the way, handing out seven assists apiece.

Curry had the hot hand in the game’s opening minutes, connecting on two treys in the first five minutes of play to help Harvard establish an early 13-3 lead.

Cornell responded with a 7-0 run highlighted by a two-handed slam from Adam Wire to cut its deficit to three.

But sophomore forward Jeff Georgatos ended the Big Red run, nailing his first career three-pointer off a pass from Curry to put the Crimson up by six.

The Crimson continued to rely on the long ball throughout the first half, connecting on 8-of-16 deep attempts in the opening frame.

With six minutes to play in the first and Harvard up 30-22, Cornell cut another chunk out of Harvard’s lead, thanks to a run led by Big Red sophomore Errick Peck. Peck sparked the run by corralling a missed three-point attempt from teammate Drew Ferry and powering to the basket for the easy bucket.

On the other end, Crimson freshman Laurent Rivard missed an open look from beyond the arc, and the visitors pulled down the rebound.

Peck struck again, this time sinking a three off the dribble to pull the Big Red back within three and forcing Harvard coach Tommy Amaker to burn a timeout.

But that’s as close as Cornell would get.

Coming out of the timeout, the Crimson gave the ball to Wright, who put the ball on the floor and finished with a spinning layup.

Sophomore Christian Webster nailed a triple on Harvard’s next possession to put the Crimson back up by eight.

Harvard closed out the half on a strong note, as Rivard knocked down a 25-footer with just seconds on the clock to give the Crimson a 10-point lead heading into the break.

“It was very big,” said Amaker of Rivard’s deep ball. “That gave us the double-digit margin that we were trying to get throughout the first half.”

But Harvard would have to withstand one more Cornell run before it could cruise to the victory.

Coming out of the break, the Big Red jumped out on a 7-2 run to get within five. Peck played a crucial role in Cornell’s success once again, finishing an acrobatic alley-oop and an and-one layup for five of his team-high 15 points.

“Peck is a tough matchup,” Amaker said. “He’s strong, [and] he’s physical. He can play inside and out.”

“He’s really fluid and he’s really athletic,” added Casey, who was charged with the primary task of defending Peck. “I definitely respect him as a player.”

But within less than two minutes, Harvard built its lead back into double digits, relying on a pair of layups from Wright and a pretty spin move from Casey in the post.

The Crimson also put the clamps down defensively, forcing the Big Red to miss its next three shot attempts.

“I think, defensively, we just locked up a lot better,” Casey said. “Communication kind of picked up, and defensive intensity picked up. And our defense always leads to our offense, so I think that’s kind of how we kind of turned it around.”

A three-pointer from Rivard with 16:34 to play set the lead at 14, and the Crimson’s lead never dipped below 12 the rest of the way, reaching 24 with under four minutes to play.

With Saturday’s victory over Cornell and Friday’s win against Columbia, Harvard improves to 4-0 in the Ivy League and extended its home winning streak to 13 games—a program record.

“I was very pleased with the effort we displayed both nights defensively,” Amaker said. “Obviously, a gratifying weekend for us.”

Ivy Fortunes Turned Upside Down

Harvard Crimson

One year ago, a raucous Lavietes Pavilion crowd was silenced by a loaded Cornell squad that shot over 50 percent from behind the arc, drilling 12 three-pointers on its way to a heartbreaking defeat of the Harvard men’s basketball team.

With four of that Big Red team’s five starters now graduated, Harvard turned the tables dramatically Saturday evening in a 78-57 win over visiting Cornell—now occupying the dregs of the Ancient Eight.

The Big Red leads the league in attempts and accuracy from long range, but the Crimson defended the three well, particularly after halftime. The hosts held the opposing squad to 5-of-16 three-point shooting, including only one make in the second half.

“They’ve been a dangerous team from three-point land; they shot 32 last night,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “We wanted to defend the three-point line…and see if we could play without fouling. We used that phrase of ‘defend the lines’: the three-point line and the foul line.”

The only remaining starter from last season’s team—which made it all the way to the Sweet 16—junior guard Chris Wroblewski had a difficult night of his own, missing 10 of the 13 shots he took from the field and picking up just seven points, far below his season average of 15.5 per game.

A night after handling Columbia star Noruwa Agho, Crimson sophomore guard Brandyn Curry locked up his next assignment, forcing Wroblewski into difficult opportunities and hampering his ability to make plays.

Unable to convert from the outside and lacking a reliable post presence on its roster, the Big Red’s primary source of offense turned out to be sophomore forward Errick Peck, who had been suffering from stomach problems earlier in the day.

He showed no signs of it, as he tormented the Harvard defense with his athleticism and versatility, dropping 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the floor.

Effortlessly drilling a pair of three-pointers, Peck was a force inside too. His athletic three-point play off an offensive rebound cut the Harvard lead to 43-38 two minutes into the second half.

But Peck was the lone scorer in double digits for Cornell—a stark contrast with the firepower of the Crimson.

INSIDE AND OUT

Last season’s Big Red team featured an array of weapons in the paint and beyond the arc. While this year’s Crimson squad may not be ready for a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, it is similarly capable of putting on an offensive showcase from anywhere on the court.

“Balance is the word for us,” Amaker said. “The inside-out combination for us is so critical.”

It worked to great effect Saturday night, when the home squad picked up 17 assists and four turnovers—a season-low.

As they did the night before, sophomore forward Kyle Casey and junior co-captain Keith Wright again led the way for Harvard, attempting 29 shots from the floor and collecting 20 rebounds.

While Peck matched up with Casey, first-year coach Bill Courtney had no answer inside for Wright, who used his size and nimble footwork to score 21 points on mid-range jumpers and up-close looks at the rim.

“Every person they threw at me had something different,” Wright said. “[Adam] Wire’s definitely stronger, so he was leaning on me a little bit more. [Aaron] Osgood, he’s a longer and lengthier guy. I just try to adjust the way I post up and feed off them.”

While the big men eventually got things going, the opening half was defined by Harvard’s ability to drain shots from the outside.

Barely 10 minutes into the night, Harvard had already hit five three-pointers—exceeding its total made against Columbia—a team that pushed the tempo much more than the Big Red.

“Last night, [the Lions] were really up and down, sprinting to the three-point line,” Casey said. “Cornell got in the half court and ran a lot of offense, a lot of screens and things like that.”

Wary of the Crimson’s ability to get to the hoop, the Big Red stuffed the lane and mixed things up with a zone defense.

But looking for fewer baskets in transition, Harvard gave Cornell a taste of its own medicine, launching triples off the dribble and nailing 8-of-16 attempts in the first half.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's basketball team won its 13th straight game at home and improved to 10-0 at Lavietes Pavilion on the season, as the Crimson held off Cornell, 78-57, before a sold out home crowd of 2,195 Saturday evening. Keith Wright scored 21 and pulled down 11 boards, including nine offensive rebounds, while Kyle Casey added 16 points and nine rebounds to help the Crimson win its eighth straight game.

The victory marks a milestone for the Crimson, which sees its record move to 15-3 overall and 4-0 in the Ivy League. Harvard is off to its second best overall start in program history (19-3, 1945-46) and best conference start since going 5-0 in 1990-91. The Crimson also matches its best home record in program history, tying the 1937-38 team which went 10-0 on its home court. Harvard has won 13 straight at Lavietes Pavilion and eight in a row overall, marking the longest win streak for the Crimson since starting the 1984-85 campaign.

The loss drops Cornell to 4-14 and 0-4 in the Ancient Eight. Errick Peck paced the Big Red effort with 15 points. Brandyn Curry scored 10, to go along with seven assists and three blocks, and Laurent Rivard tallied 12 points and Christian Webster notched 10 points in a winning effort for the Crimson. Oliver McNally was also strong with the ball, assisting on seven buckets without a turnover. As a team, Harvard had 17 assists and only four turnovers.

An alley-oop pass from Curry to Casey for a jam gave Harvard a 4-3 lead early on, before Curry knocked down a trey to put the Crimson on top by four, 7-3. Wright added to the lead by following his own shot, grabbing an offensive board and laying the ball into the hoop, making it 9-3. The Crimson completed the 13-0 run with another three from the right corner from the left hand of Curry and a free throw by Wright, as Harvard led, 13-3, with 13:33 to play in the first half. The Big Red recovered and then went on a 7-0 run of its own to pull within three, 13-10.

Harvard continued to shoot the ball well from long distance in the opening frame, as Webster drilled a wide-open trey to give the Crimson a seven-point advantage, 19-12. Moments later, Curry buried his third three of the half from the right wing, making it 22-14 in favor of the Crimson. With 6:28 to go in the half, Oliver McNally sent a pass to the right corner and Rivard sank a trey, giving the Crimson an eight-point edge, 28-22. Cornell got within three, 30-27, after Peck hit a shot from beyond the arc with 3:49 to go, but the Crimson went back up by five when Wright weaved his way through the defense and made a layup. Wright assisted on Harvard's next basket as he passed the ball to Webster who knocked down another trey, making it 35-27.

With time winding down in the first half, Rivard connected on a long three from the right wing as time expired, sending Harvard to the locker room with a 41-31 advantage. At the break, Harvard had 16 points off turnovers and Wright had six rebounds, all offensive.

The Crimson opened the half with a highlight reel play as Curry sent a pass just above the rim for Casey, who made a thunderous two-handed dunk. Harvard grabbed its largest lead of the game to that point when Rivard hit another trey from the right side with 16:31 remaining, the Crimson went up by 14, 52-38. McNally dished out his seventh assist off an inbound pass as he found Webster open in the lane for a jumper, making it 58-42.

With 7:30 to go, Wright grabbed another offensive board after missing a shot and recovered to make a layup, as Harvard increased its lead to 65-44. With Harvard's next trip down the floor, Wright made a shot after being fouled and hit the ensuing layup as the Crimson continued to pull away and led, 68-46. Two free throws by Webster gave Harvard a 72-50 lead with just 3:54 remaining and Casey added a dunk off a missed Harvard shot to give Harvard a 24-point lead.

The Crimson shot 46.6% from the field for the game and made 50 percent of its 3-point attempts (10-of-20).

Harvard will visit Princeton and Penn for key Ivy League contests Feb. 4-5. The game between the Crimson and Tigers will be broadcast live on ESPNU Friday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.









Cornell Daily Sun

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — They say revenge is best served cold. Other times, it is just plain served. Nearly a year to the day after the Cornell men’s basketball team embarrassed Harvard by 36 points in front of a sold-out Newman Arena crowd, the Crimson returned the favor — blowing out the Red, 78-57, on Saturday night before a nearly filled, white-clad Lavietes Pavilion. With the loss, Cornell (4-14 overall) drops to 0-4 in the Ivy League — its worst conference start since the 2001-02 season — while Harvard (15-3) remains undefeated at 4-0.

Despite the absence of Jeremy Lin ’10, who now plays for the Golden State Warriors, the Crimson showcased why it is projected to duke it out with Princeton for the Ivy League crown. Aided by the talent and depth of its roster — not to mention a willingness to employ an unselfish brand of basketball — Harvard managed to place five players in double-figures, as Cornell struggled to find a solution to the frontcourt duo of junior Keith Wright and sophomore Kyle Casey inside. Casey, the reigning Ivy League Rookie of the Year, and Wright, who has made a habit of touting himself as an Ivy League Player of the Year candidate via Twitter, combined for 37 points and 20 rebounds.

Errick Peck, who was battling a stomach bug for most of the weekend, saw limited action but still managed to lead the Red in scoring with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting to go along with four rebounds in his 17 minutes on the floor. The sophomore starter was the only Cornell player to score in double-figures.

Junior guard and tri-captain Chris Wroblewski, who has been playing with a partially torn hip flexor, managed seven points, four rebounds and five assists despite only shooting 3-for-13 from the field. Senior guard/tri-captain Adam Wire and freshman guard Jake Matthews each chipped in six apiece, while sophomore guard Miles Asafo-Adjei contributed seven off the bench, including one of only five Cornell 3-pointers on the night. Wire led the team in rebounding with eight, followed closely by senior center Mark Coury at six.

“They still are a tough team; they play so much better than their record,” said Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker after the game. “They’ve had a tough road with lots of tough losses, but I give all the credit in the world to Bill Courtney — what he’s been able to do to keep those kids fighting, scratching and clawing. I know how hard that can be sometimes when things don’t go your way.”

Peck got things started for his team, nailing an early 3 to hand Cornell its first and only lead of the game. However, Harvard reciprocated with a 13-0 run spearheaded by sophomore guard Brandyn Curry’s hot shooting from downtime, and Wright/Casey’s contributions in the paint.

Although the Red twice managed to cut the deficit to three in the first half, the Crimson kept its poise and was quick to respond every time Cornell threatened. With time expiring, freshman guard Laurent Rivard calmly dribbled the ball before knocking down a 3 at the buzzer over the outstretched arms of freshman guard Jake Matthews — handing the Crimson a 41-31 advantage heading into the locker room.

“[Rivard’s shot] was very big [and] gave us a double-digit margin that we were trying to get throughout the first half,” Amaker said. “Getting that shot at the end of the half gave some momentum to our team.”

There may not have been 14 NBA scouts and the likes of Andy Katz and Jeff Goodman in attendance (as there were at last year’s matchup in Cambridge), but that’s not to say the Lavietes crowd didn’t feature at least one familiar face.

Former Red skipper Steve Donahue, now seated in the stands instead of on the sidelines, made the trek over from Chestnut Hill to see the new-look Cornell team in action, and even addressed the squad at halftime.

“It seemed like old times, it was good to see him. It was one of those ‘Stick together, play for your teammates’ kind of speeches,” Wroblewski said.

Peck made an acrobatic shot off a lob from junior guard Andrew Ferry to kick off the second frame and fuel a 7-2 Cornell run that brought the Red within five. However, that was as close as the visiting team would come for the remainder of the contest, as the Crimson utilized a balanced scoring attack to push its lead to as much as 24.

“Balance is the word for us. ... We are thinking along the lines of having really good balance,” Amaker said. “The inside-out combination for us is so critical.”

Cornell managed to shoot 43.1 percent overall, but connected on only 5-of-16 from beyond the arc — four of which came in the first half. Harvard, meanwhile, doubled the Red’s trey total en route to shooting 46.6 percent for the game and a blistering 50 percent from outside.

Amaker mentioned defending the 3-point line as a point of emphasis for his team heading into Saturday’s matchup.

“[We were] certainly trying to defend their 3’s,” he said. “We thought that was critical, and also wanted to play without fouling, keep them off the foul line. We use that phrase ‘Defend the lines’ — 3-point line and the foul line.”

Indeed, Cornell made only three trips to the free-throw line throughout, compared to Harvard’s 20 appearances — of which it converted on 14 attempts.

The Crimson capitalized on the Red’s miscues, scoring 22 points off of 13 Cornell turnovers. The home team, meanwhile, committed only four turnovers while dishing out 17 assists — numbers Amaker said he was “blown away by.”

“I thought we took care of the ball incredibly well, and then we shared it,” he said. “It was nice that our kids had a lot of fun playing.”

One night after calling out his team for a lackluster effort that resulted in a 64-57 loss to perennial Ivy cellar-dweller Dartmouth (5-13, 1-3 Ivy), Cornell head coach Bill Courtney admitted he was proud of the Red’s play against a top contender.

“I thought we came out with a lot more intensity than we did [Friday] night, so I was really pleased by that,” he said.

After struggling with rebounding all season, Cornell managed to hold a narrow, 36-34, advantage on the glass against Harvard. However, that’s not to say there isn’t more "work" to be done.

“I think we definitely played really hard physically. I think we still had some mental lapses in the first half, the second half, too,” Wroblewski said. “We gave up some easy buckets, some offensive rebounds. We’ve got to start cutting those out of our game.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here's a sobering fact:

Cornell men's basketball is poised to set some more history this year - and not in a good way. If they win less than 3 more games the rest of the season, they will have had the largest one-year decline in winning percentage of any sweet sixteen team in the history of college basketball ... men's or women's. If they overachieve and go 5-5 in the last 10 games, they will still set this mark for non-BCS teams. At this point, this record looks quite probable.

I've only verified this for seasons following sweet sixteen seasons. Unsure how this decline in winning percentage measures up regardless of tournament appearances or success. It has to be up there with the worst of all time program collapses over a one-year period.

This is just an observation and is not intended to reflect on the coach's or player's abilities. I appreciate the hard work they are putting in.