Friday, December 30, 2011

Ithaca Journal: Cornell Seeks Road to Success

Every coach in college basketball faces unique challenges. Cornell men's basketball coach Bill Courtney's challenge often involves coaching two very different teams in the same game.

"It's been hard to pin down why we've looked like two different teams in different halves of games," Courtney said. "In different games its different things that allow you to play well or play bad. Getting momentum has been a problem, but for us it's a process. We've been putting ourselves in situations to win games on the road, which is all a coach can ask for. Now we just have to figure out a way to finish."

The Big Red lost its third consecutive close road contest and third game overall Wednesday, rallying from a 20-point first half deficit against Stony Brook only to surrender a two-point lead in the final 30 seconds of regulation and lose, 68-59, in overtime.

After falling to Illinois by four points on Dec. 19 and Penn State by seven on Dec. 21, Cornell will continue its five-game non-conference trip and hope to notch its first road win of the season when it visits Bucknell at 2 p.m. Saturday.

As has been the tendency with Courtney's team this winter, Cornell (4-7) seemed intent on making things hard on itself against the Sea Wolves, falling into a 35-15 hole late in the first half after turning the ball over seven times in the first 12 minutes and missing its first seven 3-point attempts.

In the second half the Big Red continued another season trend, however, picking up its defensive intensity and holding Stony Brook to just 27 percent shooting and outscoring the Sea Wolves 31-16.

Cornell completed its improbable comeback when it took a 51-49 lead on a 3-pointer from senior Drew Ferry with 1:18 remaining, the visitors' first lead since scoring the game's first point.

But Stony Brook tied the game with 20 seconds left and, after scoring the first four points of overtime, pulled away for the win.

"Obviously, when you have a lot of young guys, you want to see results," Courtney said. "I think in all of our road games we've been tied or had the lead with four minutes to go. As a coach you look at that and you say that's very good. To come up empty on all those is the thing that's hard, but we've also traveled a lot and have guys playing a lot of minutes. If we do what we need to do we'll have a chance to win the next one."

Ferry led Cornell with 15 points on five 3-pointers, while freshman revelation Shonn Miller chipped in 10 points and five rebounds. Senior point-guard Chris Wroblewski continued his inconsistent shooting -- scoring just five points on 1-for-6 from the field and missing all four of his 3-point attempts -- although he did notch seven assists, four rebounds and five steals, all numbers Courtney knows are vital to his team's success.

"He does so many other things for us besides making shots," Courtney said. "From his passing to his defense to his communication on the court ... His teammates realize that and certainly our coaching staff realizes that. There are times when we can't score when he isn't on the floor, so I'm not really concerned if he makes shots or not."

Cornell didn't help itself by making just eight of 17 free-throw attempts, compounded by 18 turnovers and just 29.2 percent shooting from behind the arc, including 2-for-12 by players other than Ferry.

Stony Brook, which improved to 4-6, was led by Bryan Dougher and Ron Bracey with 16 points apiece.

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