Saturday, February 19, 2011

Game Recaps: Harvard at Cornell

Game recaps from Harvard's win at Cornell on Friday night...

By Brian Delaney
Ithaca Journal

ITHACA -- The first time, Cornell played Harvard one night after a dismal showing at Dartmouth. The second time, which was Friday night at Newman Arena, Cornell greeted the Crimson playing its best basketball under first-year coach Bill Courtney.

It still didn't matter. The script was strikingly similar. Harvard got balanced scoring, built a double-digit first-half lead and led by double digits for all but 38 seconds of the second half in a 73-60 victory.

The Crimson (19-4), 8-1 in the Ivy League, kept pace with league-leading Princeton (20-4, 8-0), which won 58-51 at Yale on Friday. Cornell (6-17, 2-7) hosts Dartmouth (5-18, 1-8) on Saturday night.

Was this a step back for Cornell, which took Princeton to the wire last weekend?

"Ask me that question after (Saturday's) game," Courtney said.

The Crimson were so potent offensively, it was difficult to tell. Point guard Brandyn Curry finished with 18 points, five assists and one turnover on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. He made all six of his free throw attempts, and two of three shots from the three-point arc.

"Because of their balance, inside-outside, they make it very, very difficult for you to take anything away and not give something else up," Courtney said. "When Brandyn Curry is playing like he was tonight, they are very, very difficult to stop."

Sophomore Christian Webster led all scorers with 20 points. Kyle Casey had 11, and both Keith Wright and Laurent Rivard pitched in 10 apiece. Despite some foul trouble, Wright posted 11 rebounds. Harvard also had five double-figure scorers in a 78-57 victory over Cornell on Jan. 29.

Athletically, Cornell was no match. Harvard's quickness too often left Cornell scrambling defensively; that led to a wide disparity at the free throw line. The Crimson attempted 35 free throws and made 29 (82.9 percent). Cornell was 6-for-6.

"They are such an athletic group," Courtney said. "And they kind of jump over you at times, and we're kind of a grounded group. So we fought, but they are very athletic. That was a factor in them drawing so many fouls."

Harvard's 8-1 Ivy record is a program-best. In its 100th year of varsity basketball, Harvard is in contention to win its first league championship. The Crimson looked fresher from the start, scoring the game's first five points, pushing its lead to 12-2 and never relinquishing it.

"We had good balance," said Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, who in his fourth season got his first victory at Newman. "Balance and efficiency were two of the key words tonight for our team."

Cornell further deepened its talent deficit with silly errors. It fouled three-point shooters three times, leading to seven free throws (and one four-point play). On one inbounds situation underneath the basket early in the game, players looked at each other for direction and found none. Only a last-second desperation lob pass averted a 5-second call. Later in the game, Harvard forced a 5-second turnover.

On two occasions, Big Red players dribbled straight into a double-team in the corner and turned the ball over. Open shots they needed to fall, didn't. Cornell missed 18 of 24 attempts from the three-point arc, and 34.5 percent shooting in the first half led to a 37-24 halftime deficit.

Harvard's pressuring defense was a factor. So was the prolonged absence of sophomore forward Errick Peck, who picked up his second foul early and sat the next 16 minutes.

"This is hard to take because I told the guys at halftime, I can take losing to a good team," Courtney said. "But to lose and not give it everything you have -- not the effort. Again, not the effort. But to do everything that we need to do to win the game. I didn't feel like we did that. We weren't locked in, focused, like we needed to be in order to win that game. That's hard to deal with."

By Timothy Walsh
The Crimson

ITHACA, N.Y.—After losing twice to Cornell a year ago, Harvard has returned the favor, winning at Newman Arena Friday night, 73-60, to complete the season sweep of the Big Red. The victory gave the Crimson (19-4, 8-1 Ivy) its best start to conference play in program history.

“We’re pleased,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “[Newman] was a tough place to play for so many years and for so many teams because of how well [Cornell] played here. So anytime you can get a victory here, it’s a nice moment.”

The Crimson dominated the game from start to finish. Sophomore forward Christian Webster continued his hot shooting from last weekend with a three pointer from the left corner to open the game, and junior co-captain Keith Wright scored on a post-up the next possession.

After a baseline jumper from forward Errick Peck put the Big Red (6-17, 2-7) on the board, Harvard hit five of seven free throws, and sophomore guard Brandyn Curry hit a floater in the lane to give the Crimson a 12-2 lead with 14:40 left.

“We played very well in stretches,” Amaker said. “I thought we had a very good first half.”

Cornell managed to whittle the margin down to four points over the next five minutes, but it would never come closer to taking the lead. Harvard went to the free throw line time after time and methodically built its advantage. In the opening frame, the Crimson went 16-of-18 from the charity stripe, while the Big Red shot just 2-for-2, and Harvard headed into intermission with a 37-24 lead.

“One of the biggest things coach harps on, definitely, is get to the free throw line,” Curry said. “He wants us to be the No. 1 free throw shooting team in the conference; he wants us to take the most and make the most.”

No one used the line better than Webster. Twice in the first half, the sophomore was fouled on a three-point attempt and then proceeded to convert all three free throws. In the second half, Webster was even fouled as he hit a trey and went on to complete the four-point play.

The forward finished the night as the game’s leading scorer, pouring in 20 points on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three and 9-of-9 from the stripe.

“He’s an offensive player, and most offensive players, if they can see the ball go in the basket—whether it’s a free throw or an easy shot—they find a little bit of a rhythm,” Amaker said. “I thought that’s what happened with [Webster].”

The guard play of Curry was at least on par with his classmate’s performance. Curry hit his first five shots from the floor—an assortment of runners in the lane and three pointers—and knocked down all six of his free throws en route to scoring a season-high 18 points.

But Curry was just as instrumental facilitating shots for others. He tallied five assists and put his teammates in position to get to the free throw line numerous times.

“He did a great job...making plays for us,” Webster said. “I mean, that’s what he does, and he did a great job tonight.”

Behind Webster and Curry, the Crimson built a lead as large as 21 points in the second half. Harvard got to the line 17 more times in the second frame and finished the night shooting 29-of-35 from the stripe. Cornell, by comparison, was 6-of-6 in the game.

Three three pointers from Big Red guard Drew Ferry—Cornell’s leading scorer with 12 points—cut into the Crimson’s advantage late, but the final result was never in doubt. The Crimson took the game, 73-60.

“We talked to our kids about still growing,” Amaker said. “It’s the ‘dog days’—quote-unquote—of February...but I wanted them to embrace to notion that we can still grow as a team...we still have moments that we can improve and grow.”

By Mark Blaudschun
Boston Globe

ITHACA, N.Y. — Over the next two weeks they will play a series of games-within-games. The first priority for both Princeton and Harvard is, of course, to win. But the Tigers and Crimson will also do some scoreboard watching.

Princeton entered its game last night at Yale with a one-game lead over Harvard in the Ivy League, courtesy of a 4-point home win over the Crimson Feb. 4. Harvard opened its New York swing, facing Cornell at Newman Arena.

When both games were over, the gap hadn’t changed. Coach Tommy Amaker’s Crimson rolled over Cornell, 73-60, while Princeton struggled to a 58-51 victory.

Amaker, in his fourth season at Harvard, has built the program steadily. At 19-4, the Crimson are tied for second-most wins in school history. They are 8-1 in the Ivy, their best start in conference history as they search for their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1946.

What Amaker doesn’t want is any surprises as the Crimson build toward the rematch with Princeton at Lavietes Pavilion March 5, the final game of the regular season. If Harvard wins that one and the teams finish with the best record in the league, they will meet in a one-game playoff at a neutral site.

There weren’t any surprises for Harvard last night as the Crimson built a 37-24 halftime lead and coasted past a Cornell team that lost eight seniors from last year’s Sweet 16 team as well as coach Steve Donahue, now at Boston College.

Though Cornell (6-17, 2-7) was coming off a 2-point loss to Princeton last Saturday, it showed no magic against a Harvard team that received a scare from Brown last weekend. A concern for Amaker was the status of starting guard Oliver McNally, who suffered a sprained ankle against Brown. McNally started against Cornell but was a nonfactor, scoring only 4 points, all from the foul line.

Amaker worked on the Crimson’s psyche for most of the week, getting them to focus on the task at hand and not look ahead. In the first 20 minutes last night, guard Brandyn Curry scored 11 of his 18 points and the Crimson controlled the tempo.

In the second half, Christian Webster (game-high 20 points, five rebounds) picked up the offense as Harvard extended its lead to 21.

“We talk a lot about having balance,’’ said Amaker. “That’s been the calling card of our team. But we’re still growing. I don’t know many teams at this time of the year that are still talking about growing.’’

Amaker understands that his players know the significance of the standings and what the schedule says. “We check the [Princeton] scores,’’ said Amaker. “I tell them if we do what we need to do, no matter what they do, we’ll still have the opportunity.’’

Curry, a 6-foot-1-inch sophomore, is normally the Crimson’s defensive anchor. Last night he played a bigger role on offense.

“I will do whatever I need to do for us to win,’’ he said. “Coach preaches that to us all the time. Do what you can do for our team to win.’’

The postseason push continues tonight as Harvard visits Columbia and Princeton meets Brown in Providence.

Men's Basketball Falls To Rival Harvard, 73-60

Box Score

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell turned the ball over just eight times, outrebounded Harvard and outscored the talented Harvard frontcourt 30-16 in the paint, but a 35-6 free-throw disparity in the favor of the visitors proved too much for the Big Red to overcome in a 73-60 loss on Friday evening at Newman Arena. The Crimson remained a half game behind Princeton (19-4, 8-1 Ivy) with the victory, while the Big Red slipped to 6-17 (2-7 Ivy) with the loss.

Drew Ferry hit four 3-pointers for his team-high 12 points, while Max Groebe added 10 as the lone Big Red players in double figures. Chris Wroblewski chipped in with eight points and three assists, while Adam Wire had eight points, five rebounds and three assists. Mark Coury had six points and seven rebounds, including five of the team's 15 offensive boards. Cornell held a 32-29 advantage on the glass and was credited with 14 assists to just eight turnovers.

Harvard got balanced scoring with five players in double figures, led by Christian Webster with 20 points and five rebounds. The player that made it all go was point guard Brandyn Curry, who stemmed off at least three Cornell runs with shots at big times en route to 18 points and five assists. Kyle Casey chipped in 11 points and seven rebounds, while Keith Wright had a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Laurent Rivard scored 10 points off the bench to round out the double figure scorers. The Crimson connected on 29-of-35 shots from the free-throw line (83 percent), while Cornell was perfect in six attempts.

Harvard jumped out of the gates to leads of 12-2 and 15-4 before the Big Red's depth helped them mount a bit of a comeback, avoiding allowing the game to get out of hand. Groebe scored seven straight for the Big Red to get back within 17-13 with 9:44 left in the half. Cornell wouldn't be able to close the deficit any further. The lead grew to 14 (33-19) on five straight points, by Harvard, including one of three Cornell fouls on 3-point attempts on the night. The teams traded baskets late in the half, but it was more free throws, four in the final 1:26 of the half by Curry, that gave the visitors a 37-24 edge at the break.

The Cornell bench started to wear down Harvard some in the second 20 minutes, getting back within nine on a driving layup by Errick Peck, but Curry hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key at the end of a shot clock on the ensuing possession and a rare four-point play just over a minute later by Webster pushed the visitors lead back to 14. Cornell wouldn't get back within single digits the rest of the way.

Cornell returns to action tomorrow when it meets Dartmouth at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.

ITHACA, N.Y. – Christian Webster tallied a game-high 20 points and was 9-of-9 from the free-throw line, and Brandyn Curry added 18 points and five assists, as the Harvard men's basketball team topped Cornell, 73-60, Friday evening. The win moves the Crimson to 8-1 in the Ivy League, as the team is off to its best start in conference play in program history.

The victory improves Harvard' s overall record to 19-4, tying the mark for the second most wins in program history (19-3 in 1945-46). The Crimson also earns the season sweep of Cornell and stretches its win streak to four games. Cornell drops to 6-17 overall and 2-7 in the Ancient Eight.

Curry was 6-of-6 from the line, as the Crimson finished 29-of-35 from the charity stripe (.829) as a team. Keith Wright recorded his 10th double-double, scoring 10 points and coming down with 11 rebounds, while Kyle Casey (11) and Laurent Rivard also reached double figures.

A trey from the left wing out of the hands of Webster gave Harvard an early 3-0 lead, and then Wright added a layup from the right of the basket to make it 5-0 in favor of the Crimson. With Harvard leading 6-2, Webster was fouled trying another triple from the right corner. Webster buried all three chances, increasing the advantage to 9-2 at the 15:56 mark. A floater in the paint by Brandyn Curry helped Harvard open up to a 10-point lead, 12-2. Moments later, Curry buried a 3-pointer from the right corner, upping Harvard's lead to 15-4.

The Big Red netted nine of the next 11 points to get within four, 17-13. With the shot clock winding down on Harvard' next possession, Kyle Casey connected on a 15-foot jumper to put the Crimson back up by six, 19-13. Wright added a layup on the next trip down the floor, giving Harvard a 21-13 lead prior to the third media timeout. Laurent Rivard got a shooter's roll on a trey from the right side with just over five minutes to go in the frame, making it 28-17 in favor of the Crimson. Webster drew a second foul while attempting a 3-pointer with 2:40 remaining in the half and hit all three of them once again, giving Harvard a 12-point edge, 31-19.

The Crimson used a 16-2 advantage in points from the charity stripe in the first half to carry a 37-24 lead into the break. Curry led Harvard with 11 points and four assists at halftime, while Webster added nine points.

Wright gave Harvard its biggest lead to that point, 39-24, with an offensive rebound and layup to open the second half. The Big Red, though, answered with a six-point run to get within nine, 39-30, with 17:00 left to play. Curry put an end to the Cornell run by stepping into a 3-pointer from the top of the key, putting the Crimson back up by double digits, 42-30. With 14:53 remaining, Webster drew contact for the third occasion while attempting a trey and this time he drained the triple. Webster connected on the ensuing free throw, making it 48-34 in favor of Harvard.

With just under 12 minutes remaining, Wright found a wide-open Webster for a 3-pointers, as Harvard went up by 17, 53-36. Casey made a trey of his own with 10:12 left, as Harvard continued to pull away, 55-36. Moments later, a mid-range jump shot by Rivard gave Harvard a 21-point cushion, 57-36.

After Cornell got back within 12, 58-46, Oliver McNally drew a foul while driving the lane and hit both free throws. Casey connected on two more free throws, as Harvard utilized the foul line, making it in a row, to go back up by 20, 66-46.

With 1:38 remaining, Curry missed a jumper by Casey was there for a strong dunk with his right hand, making it 73-56 and putting an exclamation point on the evening.

Cornell outrebounded Harvard, 32-29, and had an edge in assists, 14-11. The Crimson shot 46.3 percent from the floor for the game and was 6-of-16 from long range (.375).

The Crimson will now travel down to New York for a game at Columbia Saturday evening at 7 p.m.

By Quintin Schwab
Cornell Daily Sun

Normally when a basketball team turns the ball over only eight times in a game, outrebounds its opponent and earns twice as many points in the paint, it wins. Such was not the case for the Cornell men’s basketball team (6-17, 2-7 Ivy League) Friday night, as a glaring 35-6 free-throw attempt discrepancy in favor of Harvard (19-4, 8-1) kept the Red at arm’s length throughout the night in a Crimson victory, 73-60.

Harvard sophomore guard Christian Webster led all scorers with 20 points, fellow sophomore guard Brandyn Curry pitched in 18 and three other Crimson players hit double-digits to boost the Ivy contenders to a season sweep of the Red — just one year after Cornell won the two meetings by a combined 45 points.

The story for Harvard was reversed from its 78-57 win on Jan. 29 in Cambridge, Mass., when frontcourt players, junior Keith Wright and sophomore Kyle Casey totaled 37 points and 20 rebounds. This time out, with the Cornell forwards holding the Crimson big men relatively in check, the sophomore guards conducted Harvard’s efficient offense. Ultimately the result was the same — Harvard’s athleticism proved too much for the Red to handle.

“[Harvard] is such an athletic group,” said head coach Bill Courtey. “They jump over you at times, and we’re kind of a grounded group. We fought, but they are very athletic. That was a factor in them earning so many fouls.”

Cornell was whistled for 20 fouls on the night, while the Crimson was limited to 11. It didn’t help that Cornell starter sophomore forward Errick Peck picked up his second foul fewer than four minutes into the game and sat for the remainder of the first half.

Coming off its best four-game stretch of the season, the Red was slow out of the gate. The Crimson built leads of 12-2 and 15-4, and set the tone for the rest of the contest as the Red struggled to make shots and defend dribble penetration early.

“We missed shots early, and we missed a little confidence in ourselves,” Courtney said. “It didn’t look like we had the same kind of swagger that we had [the past two weekends]. We were the ones under siege rather than the attackers.”

Junior guard Andrew Ferry, who led the Red with 12 points, called the performance at the beginning of the game “sluggish.”

The Red also lacked discipline at times. Cornell fouled three 3-point shooters on the night, leading to seven Harvard free throws. The last violation occurred on a successful Webster shot from distance with 14:51 remaining to increase the Crimson advantage, 48-34, breaking the game wide open.

“When those types of errors happen, you know you’re not tuned in enough to beat a team like Harvard,” Courtney said. “For whatever reason — whether we respected Harvard too much or I don’t know — we were not locked in and focused like we needed to be to win the game.”

Webster, and particularly Curry, repeatedly broke down Cornell defenders — both off the dribble and with sharp passes — which led to all the looks from the free-throw stripe.

“Curry was phenomenal; he was the key to the game,” Courtney said. “Every time we made a run and seemed to get close he made a play.”

“[The Harvard guards] are quick, athletic, strong and experienced — they’re very good players,” Ferry said. “When we pressured the ball, if they got a good first step that was all they needed.”

“They have really good efficiency in their guard play,” said senior forward Mark Coury, who had six points and seven boards. “They were knocking down shots early, they got to the free-throw line early and their guards penetrated to get open 3s and free throw looks. … When a team shoots [29] more free throws than us, that’s hard to recover from. That’s something that’s been hurting us all year.”

Sixteen of the last 20 Cornell opponents have shot more than 20 free throws against the Red.

“Tonight the referees were calling it pretty close,” Ferry said. “We have to be more conscious when the game is being called tight like that and adjust.”

The Red did manage to hit 14 of its 30 shots from the field after halftime and one of Ferry’s four 3-pointers cut the gap to 11 with 3:37 to play, but Cornell made only 6-of-24 from 3-point range for the game. On the other end Harvard knocked down 83 percent of its abundant free-throw looks to make sure the Red didn’t come storming back.

“In the second half we did play with that kind of energy, intensity and effort that we need, but we waited a little too long to play desperate,” Courtney said.

The question remains, did the Red suffer any type of setback, after winning two of its past three games and nearly upsetting Princeton?

“Ask me that question after [the game against Dartmouth Saturday night],” Courtney said.


Anonymous said...

I really thought we had been improving on the fouling front. I think last night def was a little bit of a ref issue.

I mean ... we outscore them in the paint, we sink the same # of treys, but they shoot 29 more FTs. Bizarre.

Anonymous said...

We have definitely improved on the defensive front. Some of those fouls were really bad. The disparity was noticeable from the very beginning. There were a lot of fouls called late, inconsistently, etc. But we can't expect the benefit of the doubt anymore as one of the best teams with the most veteran coaches. Having only begun watching Ivy league ball relatively recently, the refereeing issues are the most obvious to me--compared to the major conferences. In the Ivy, you tend to remember the refs and the bad calls made. In the ACC, SEC, Big East? You don't usually remember the refs, even if a controversial call is made, because they are so few and far between.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, it was a mismatch athletically. Harvard just has more talented athletes, with more on the way. Cornell is looking better, though, and we can only hope that it leads to a .500 record next season (size notwithstanding).