Sunday’s result: American 65,
Next game: 7 p.m. Saturday vs. Lehigh at Newman Arena
ITHACA — It's just six games into a 28-game season, and Cornell men's head basketball coach Bill Courtney isn't exactly sure what kind of a team he has.
While that may seem like a cause for concern to an outsider, those closely following the Big Red know that not much of that falls on Courtney's shoulders.
Cornell — which dropped to 2-4 on Sunday after a 65-63 matinee loss to American University at Newman Arena — has had its young roster decimated by injuries.
Junior Errick Peck, expected to be the Big Red's best interior presence this winter, hasn't seen any action after having minor knee surgery in July. Senior big man Anthony Gatlin has also been a regular in the Big Red's "street clothes unit." Sophomore Dwight Tarwater had to miss several practices last week due to illness.
Even two-time Ivy League Rookie of the Week Shonn Miller remains a bit of a mystery to Courtney, considering he was only able to get one week of practice in under his belt before Cornell's first game this season due to a knock he sustained in the preseason.
"I think we're still such a work in progress," Courtney said. "We thought we may have figured some of that out, but the injuries prohibit that. We're still in the process of figuring ourselves out. We have five or six days until our next game, so we'll go retool and see if we can get the best out of our squad."
Cornell fell behind early Sunday against the Eagles (4-2), trailing 16-5 midway through the first half after failing to convert a number of early chances near the rim. By halftime, however, the Eagles' lead was just two points as the Big Red hustled their way back into the game, thanks to strong contributions from senior point guard Chris Wroblewski and freshman guard Galal Cancer.
Cancer, who finished with two points, seven rebounds, six assists and three steals in 27 minutes, provided some much needed energy for Courtney's squad, hounding the American ball handlers and repeatedly driving to the basket.
After taking a brief 38-36 lead on a nifty drive and reverse layup by junior Miles Asafo-Adjei, Cornell would again fall into a lull, and with 3:45 left found itself down by double-digits, again. A full-court press and some timely baskets by Wroblewski would keep the Big Red close down the stretch, but in the end American made just enough free throws to escape.
"For whatever reason we've struggled starting games this year," Courtney said. "We missed a lot of easy shots to start the game and had some defensive break downs. Those things cost us because then you're in a constant comeback mode and trying to fight back and using so much energy to get back to that level. It really makes things hard."
One bright spot for Cornell on Sunday was the resurgence of Wroblewski, who finished with a season-high 21 points and six assists on seven of 14 shooting after struggling to find his shot in the team's first five games. Cornell recovered from its slow start to shoot 43.6 percent from the field as a team, although the Big Red also committed 16 turnovers and made just eight of 21 3-pointers.
"I'm still trying to find that balance between keeping everyone involved and trying to find my own offense," Wroblewski. "At the pace we play, there's going to be times when we miss a couple in a row and have some lulls in the game. It's at the defensive end that we can't have those mental lapses. We'll look at the tape and hopefully get better from this."
Cornell will next take the court 7 p.m. Dec. 3, when Lehigh comes to Newman Arena.
M. BASKETBALL | American Saddles Cornell With First Home Loss
Cornell Daily Sun
The Cornell men’s basketball team lost on home court for the first time this season, falling to streaking American, 65-63, on Sunday afternoon at Newman Arena. The Red (2-4) fell behind early and clawed back into the game, but eventually gave way to the Eagles (4-2) — an all-too-familiar theme of Bill Courtney’s first 34 contests as Cornell’s head coach.
American senior forward Charles Hinkle — the nation’s third leading scorer — picked up where he left off before Thanksgiving, leading the visitors with 20 points. Hinkle scored a career-high 31 points on Tuesday in a win over Quinnipiac, the Eagles’ third of four straight victories after an 0-2 start to the season.
Cornell senior guard Chris Wroblewski pulled himself out of an early-season shooting slump to score a team-best 21 points. The co-captain entered the game having connected on only 6-of-35 field goals in 2011-12, but he hit 7-of-14 shots and all four free throws against the Eagles to go along with six assists and four rebounds.
“I’ve definitely been struggling and I’m trying to find that balance between getting everybody else involved and looking for my own offense,” Wroblewski said. “But [shooting well] didn’t feel good because we were losing the whole game. Some shots fell and hopefully it will give me a lot of momentum and confidence going forward personally, but from a team standpoint, we’ve got to figure this out.”
The Red again suffered a lethargic start, as Hinkle scored 11 straight points to vault American to an early cushion, 13-2. Senior forward Riley Grafft, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench, pushed the Eagles’ advantage to 26-14 on a layup with 4:27 remaining in the first half.
“We’ve struggled starting games this season for whatever reason,” Courtney said. “We missed a lot of easy shots to start the game today and we had some defensive breakdowns. Those cost us because we were in this constant comeback mode of trying to fight back and using so much energy to get to that even level. Then when you finally get there, it’s hard to have that much more energy to try to get over the hump.”
Cornell responded with an 8-0 run to close the half, cutting the American lead to a field goal, 30-28. On the final play before intermission, wide-open freshman forward Shonn Miller yelled out at the top of his lungs in transition. Wroblewski attempted and missed a 3-pointer instead, but Miller was there for the put-back as time expired. In general, though, Miller and the other forwards were not strong enough with the ball, according to Courtney.
“I think both Shonn and [junior forward Eitan Chemerinski] had trouble finishing today,” Courtney said. “I thought we could’ve done a better job going up stronger and finishing, but we didn’t do that. That was very disappointing, in particular in the first half when we had some opportunities.”
Cornell took its first lead of the contest, 38-36, on a nifty reverse layup by junior guard Miles Asafo-Adjei just over seven minutes into the second half. Grafft scored six consecutive points, however, to put the visitors right back on top and start a 16-3 Eagles run over just 3:31.
“If we’re going to play at [a fast pace], then there are going to be some times when we are missing a couple in a row,” Wroblewski said. “But on the defensive end we can’t have those mental lapses.”
“We just didn’t come out with the energy we needed at the beginning of both halves,” added junior forward Josh Figini, who made 6-of-9 shots from the field for a career-high 14 points. “We hit some lulls and just weren’t able to get it back at the end.”
The Red inched back by forcing three turnovers out of a full-court press and scoring 12 points in the final minute, but American knocked down 9-of-10 free-throw attempts down the stretch to seal the two-point win.
The Eagles forced 16 turnovers on the day, leading to several fast break opportunities and subsequent Red fouls. American converted 22-of-27 attempts from the charity stripe to overcome a pedestrian 41.7 percent shooting performance from the floor, while Cornell hit 43.6 percent from the field but earned only 10 chances at the line.
“We gave up a lot of silly [turnovers], which are the kind you have to avoid,” Courtney said. “Turnovers of aggression [that result from] trying to make a play are sometimes OK, but the silly ones — like reversing the basketball and just throwing it to the other team — are the ones you can’t live with as a coach. We have to clean up some of the non-aggressive turnovers.”
“We have to protect the ball,” Figini added. “We’ve had a lot of turnovers in all of our games. I think the key to turning our season around is playing … the whole game at the pace that we played the last five minutes [against American].”
The Red looks to bounce back against Lehigh (4-2) on Saturday at Newman Arena in its last matchup before a two-week respite for final exams. Cornell’s record through six games is identical to last year’s, but the Red believes it can distinguish itself from the team that went 10-18 in 2010-11.
“We’re still in the process of figuring ourselves out,” Courtney said. “We’ve played a tough schedule, but we have an even more tough schedule coming up, so we’ll have our hands full. We’ve got a little time to practice right now — about five or six days then a finals break — so we’ll re-tool and try to see if we can get the best out of our squad.”
Senior Chris Wroblewski pumped in a season-high 21 points and added six assists, four rebounds and two steals, while junior Josh Figini had a career-high 14 points and five rebounds. Freshman Shonn Miller chipped in nine points, while classmate Galal Cancer notched two points, six assists and three steals. Both players shared team high of seven rebounds. The Big Red had 19 assists and had 10 steals as a collective group.
Charles Hinkle scored 20 points, while Riley Grafft had 12 points and seven rebounds and Troy Brewer notched 12 to go along with four assists, three rebounds and three steals for American.
It was a 12-2 run to start the game and a quick 4-0 surge to start the second that put the Big Red back on its heels. The Big Red fought back each time, using an 8-0 run to close the first half to get back within 30-28 at the break after trailing by as many as 12 points (22-10). The visitors took as lead as big as 11 (52-41) with less than five minutes remaining, and Cornell again chipped it down to two (63-61) on a Figini 3-pointer from the right corner with six seconds left. The Eagles hit 10-of-12 free throws in the final minute to hold off the hard-charging Big Red, including the final five over the last 25 seconds. It was just enough to hold onto the lead.
American surged out to an early 13-2 edge behind 11 quick points by Hinkle, who was quiet most of the rest of the night save for six free throws in the final minute of play to seal the win. The nation's third-leading scorer at 24.8 ppg. broke an early 2-2 tie with a long jumper, part of 11 consecutive points scored by the senior. His last points of the surge, three free throws after being fouled behind the arc, made it 13-2 with 13:11 showing on the clock.
Max Groebe hit a 3-pointer, followed by another in short order by Drew Ferry, started Cornell's energy. Wroblewski, who entered the game shooting just 17 percent from the floor, nailed a big 3-pointer to get the crowd into the contest at 22-13, but American again moved ahead by double figures on a jumper by Brewer and a layup by Grafft.
The Big Red began its run moments later. It started with a Figini layup on a brilliant feed underneath by Wroblewski. The senior than came off screens twice in the lane for 10-foot jumpers that touched nothing but net. Consecutive baskets by freshmen Cancer and Miller cut the lead to four with 39 seconds to play, and after a Hinkle miss, Wroblewski rushed up the court and got an open look that rimmed out, but Miller was there for the tip-in to make it 30-28 going into the break. The 8-0 run over the final 1:56 put the home team right back into the game.
American scored the first four points, but its defense shut out the Big Red for the first 2:43 as it moved its lead to six at 34-28. A Wroblewski 3-pointer cut the deficit in half and a find underneath to Figini for a dunk got the home team back to even at 3-34 with 16:11 showing on the clock. The Big Red grabbed a brief lead four minutes later on a reverse layup by Miles Asafo-Adjei, who cut through the defense for the bucket to make it 40-38. It was short-lived however, as Simon McCormack had a left-handed finish to knot the score to begin a 10-0 Eagle run.
The American University men's basketball team earned their fourth consecutive win with a 65-63 victory over Cornell on Sunday. Charles Hinkle notched 20 points to lead the Eagles, the sixth straight time he has scored at least 20 points in a game, hitting 10-of-11 from the foul line.
Riley Grafft had seven rebounds to lead the Eagles and posted 12 points. Troy Brewer also recorded 12 points for the Eagles and led the team with four assists and three steals. American shot 41.7 percent from the field in the game and 81.5 percent from the foul line.
The Eagles (4-2) opened the game on a 13-2 run, with Hinkle hitting 11 straight points just 13:12 into the first half before Blake Jolivette added a three of his own to put American up 11. Cornell was able to bring it within eight after a Josh Figini jumper, but a pair of Brewer free throws and a Tony Wroblicky jumper gave American their biggest lead of the game, 22-10, at 8:55.
The Big Red (2-4) were able to cut American' lead to two, 30-28, going on a 14-4 run at the end of the first. Chris Wroblewski opened the run for Cornell, despite Hinkle answering with a lay-up to keep the Eagles up by 10 with 3:02 on the clock, 28-18. Wroblewski would add two more and Shonn Miller added four straight points for Cornell to end the half.
Hinkle led American with 13 points in the first half as Wroblicky added three boards. The Eagles shot 41.7 percent from the floor and 87.5 percent from the line. Wroblewski led the Big Red with seven first half points as Cornell shot 44.4 percent from the field. Galal Cancer had six rebounds to lead Cornell.
Brewer added the first four points of the second half, 34-28, before Wroblewski hit a three and Chemerinski made 1-of-2 from the line to cut the Eagles' lead to two, 34-32. A dunk from Figini at 16:01 would it tie it for the first time in the game, 34-34. Cornell took its first and only lead of the game with 12:24 left following a Miles Asafo-Adjei lay-up, 38-36.
American would go on a 16-3 run to take an 11 point lead, 52-41, following a pair of free throws from Grafft. Drew Ferry would hit a three for the Big Red to cut the lead to eight, 52-44, before a Simon McCormack lay-up would put the Eagles back up by 10, 54-44, with 3:50 remaining. Cornell would bring it within three off a Miller three with 20 seconds left in the game, but Hinkle was able to make four free throws to hold off a Big Red comeback. Wroblewski added a lay-up as time expired to mark a 65-63 final score.
The Eagles shot 41.7 percent from the field in the second half and 78.9 percent from the free throw line. Cornell shot 42.9 percent from the field in the second half and 43.6 percent for the game. The team was also 70.0 percent from the line for the game. American held the 32-30 advantage in rebounds.
American will return to Bender Arena on Tuesday, November 29 when they face Howard at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available for the game, and you can order them by clicking here or by calling (202) 885-TIXX. The game will also be broadcast live on Comcast SportsNet and Eagles Vision TV.
Box Score - Recap
Hinkle’s two free throws with 5 seconds remaining gave the Eagles (4-2) enough breathing room after they built, and squandered, big leads in each half. Hinkle gave American a four-point lead, 65-61, after Josh Figini’s 3-pointer with 14 seconds left had drawn the Big Red (2-4) within two.
Chris Wroblewski’s layup at the buzzer trimmed the final deficit for Cornell.
American started the game with a 13-2 run, but Cornell cut the Eagles’ lead to 30-28 at halftime.
The Big Red led briefly, 38-36, in the second half before a 16-3 run gave American a 52-41 advantage with 5:06 remaining.
Wroblewski scored 21 points to lead Cornell, including 14 in the second half, and Figini finished with 14 points.
Troy Brewer and Riley Grafft scored 12 points each for American.