Monday, January 17, 2011

More on Cornell's Trip to New York from the Ithaca Journal

(Photo Gene Boyars)
More on Cornell's trip to New York from the Ithaca Journal...

Early lull costly for Cornell

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal
January 17, 2011

NEW YORK -- The same issues that cost Cornell multiple victories during its non-league schedule loomed large again Saturday night, and left the Big Red in an unfamiliar position: the bottom of the Ivy League standings.

Columbia junior standout Noruwa Agho scored 25 points, and the Lions had an offensive answer for everything Cornell put together down the stretch of a thrilling second half at Levien Gymnasium.

The Big Red's desperate comeback -- led by an electric shooting display from Drew Ferry -- fell short, 79-75, as the Lions (10-5, 1-0 Ivy) snapped a nine-game losing streak in the series.

"We dug ourselves way too big of a hole," Big Red guard Chris Wroblewski said.

Wroblewski had a clean look at a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the key with about 13 seconds left, but the shot missed -- the last of 12 for the junior on a frustrating night.

Agho, terrific throughout, then sealed the game with a free throw. Cornell, which trailed by 14 at halftime, got within a possession seven times over the final 10 minutes, but never tied or took a lead.

"They came at us strong and made some big shots, and we just tried to remain composed and poised, and execute what we do best," Agho said. "We didn't get too anxious when they made a big shot, and we didn't get too anxious when we made a big shot."

Cornell never completely overcame a brutally inefficient 10-minute stretch of offense in the first half.

With 13:17 left in the first half, Cornell took a 16-12 lead on an Errick Peck layup. But over the next nine-plus minutes, Cornell managed two points. The Big Red missed 13 of 14 field goal attempts, two free throws, and committed five turnovers. By the end of the run, Columbia had a 28-18 lead. For good measure, the Lions scored the final six points of the half to go up 37-23 at the break.

Cornell shot 29.4 percent in the half, missing 10 of 11 3-point attempts and four of six free throws.

Foul trouble was problematic. Cornell coach Bill Courtney was hamstrung by two fouls apiece to Aaron Osgood, Mark Coury and Adam Wire. As Columbia's physicality took a toll up front, Courtney opted to keep the trio on the bench until the second half.

"It's not a hard and fast rule, but our big guys have a tendency to pick up fouls and so I knew if I put them back in the game that more than likely they would pick up a third," Courtney said.

Cornell was outrebounded, 40-30, on the night, but the discrepancy appeared even worse than that. The Big Red (4-11, 0-1) had only 12 defensive rebounds on the night, as Columbia rebounded 68 percent of its misses.

Cornell got back into the game by virtue of extended, aggressive defensive pressure and the shooting of Ferry. The 6-foot-1 junior made seven of his eight shots in the second half, six of which were 3-pointers. He got started with baskets in transition, then hit difficult shots with defenders draped all over him. The barrage drew audible reactions from both teams' crowds -- delight from Cornell, incredulity from Columbia.

"He was great," Columbia coach Kyle Smith said. "He was high on the scout as far as being a guy we'd have to watch. You've got to be careful. They're good in transition. You've got to find them immediately."

Each of Columbia's last 10 games has been decided by a margin of six points or less. The Lions, who played a softer non-league schedule than Cornell, won eight of those games. As the hosts' composure remained intact late, it was clear the schedule strength mattered much less than the outcomes.

"It's nothing new, it's nothing new," said Agho, a 6-3 junior guard who shot 8-for-17 from the field, to go along with six rebounds and three assists. "We're definitely used to (close games), and it makes a big difference that you have the confidence to pull it out no matter what."

Sophomore guard Brian Barbour tied a season-high with 21 points. Mark Cisco, a 6-9 sophomore forward, finished with 14 points and seven rebounds, and freshman Steve Frankoski chipped in 11. He made three of his four 3-point attempts.

Wroblewski was 0-for-10 in the first half, and did all of his scoring (14 points) after halftime. He added seven assists and two steals.

Cornell must now hold court for a split Saturday at Newman Arena. There are a number of things it must do better, particularly since it can't rely on Ferry repeating his big second half.

"Sometimes when our shots don't fall, that kind of gets into our heads," Ferry said. "We can't think so much. We just have to play like we know how to play."

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