Sunday, January 15, 2012

Game Recap: Cornell 52, Penn 64

CU Men's Basketball

Saturday's result: Penn 64, Cornell 52

Friday's result: Cornell 67, Princeton 59

Record: 6-10 overall, 1-1 Ivy League

Next game: Saturday at Columbia, 7 p.m.

ITHACA -- One weekend and two home games into its latest Ivy League campaign, the Cornell men's basketball team found a way to answer a few questions concerning its conference pedigree, while creating a few more along the way.

After taking down defending Ancient Eight champion Princeton on Friday night behind suffocating defense and strong guard play, Cornell suffered a 64-52 defeat at the hands of a hot-shooting Pennsylvania team on Saturday to even its record in the league to 1-1 and drop to 6-10 overall.

Friday's 67-59 win over the Tigers (10-8, 1-1) took Cornell over the .500 mark in the Ivy for the first time in two seasons, a feeling that was short-lived as just 24 hours later, the Quakers (9-9, 2-0) held Cornell to just 37.5 percent shooting and 3 of 17 from behind the arc en route to a commanding victory. The Big Red will look to bounce back from the loss this Saturday, when it travels to Columbia for a 7 p.m. tip.

"You have to give (Penn) all the credit for the things they did," Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. "We win (Friday) and people may get too high, but there's no need for that because we're a work in progress. We have so many young guys out there, and they're not going to have great games every night. We have to look for every morsel of things we can work on and get better. If we do that, we'll be okay."

One player who did have a great game Saturday was Penn senior point guard Zack Rosen -- the early favorite for Ivy League Player of the Year -- who according to Courtney "single-handedly dominated the game on both ends of the floor" and finished with 18 points, five assists and five steals.

Despite trailing 36-25 and struggling to find any kind of offensive rhythm, the Big Red stayed within striking distance early in the second half, before the Quakers set off on a quick 6-0 spurt with around 16 remaining to take a 47-33 lead. Freshman Devin Cherry ended the Quakers' run by hitting a 3-pointer that made the score 47-36, but Penn then answered with a trey of its own, the first of a handful of timely long-range shots turned in by the visitors on the night.

Another Penn 3-pointer made it 55-40 a few minutes later, before Rosen buried the Quakers' 10th and final 3-pointer of the night to put the game out of reach at 58-42 with 5:45 to play.

While outside shooting will be a concern for Courtney moving forward -- the usually sharpshooting Big Red made just 5 of 28 from behind the arc on the weekend -- one positive the second-year coach will take out of these two games is Cornell's improved rebounding. After struggling in that department for the majority of non-conference play, the Big Red out-rebounded a more physical Princeton team 42-41 on Friday and lost the rebounding battle to the Quakers by only two, 37-35.

Another weekend revelation for Cornell was the effectiveness of Courtney's newest rotational experiment: a four-guard lineup. Courtney employed the tactic with significant success in the second half of Friday's game, as Cornell's guards consistently drove past Princeton's bigger and slower defenders on their way to the basket.

"With some of the guys we play we have the ability to put the ball on the ground and get past some guys," Courtney said. "That was our game plan (Friday). We'll continue to try to diversify our offense and not just rely on the 3-point shot."

Freshman guard Galal Cancer led Cornell with 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting against Princeton, while fellow rookie Shonn Miller posted a double-double with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks against Penn after scoring 12 against the Tigers.

Box Score (PDF)
Photo Gallery (by Patrick Shanahan)

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Freshman Shonn Miller scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his second career double-double, but Penn's hot shooting from beyond the arc proved too much as the Quakers topped Cornell 64-52 on Saturday evening at Newman Arena. Cornell fell to 6-10 (1-1 Ivy), while Penn improved to 9-9 (2-0 Ivy).

The Big Red freshman had another outstanding outing, hitting 8-of-13 shots and adding four blocks and a steal in 31 minutes without a turnover. He was the lone Cornell player to hit double figures. Drew Ferry scored eight points, all in the second half, and Galal Cancer notched seven points. Chris Wroblewski had four points, six assists and four steals for Cornell, which had 10 steals as a collective group. Cornell hit just 3-of-17 shots from beyond the arc and made just 13-of-24 free throws in the loss.

For Penn, both Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini had 18 points to lead the Quakers. Rosen, the conference's leader in scoring and assists, added five assists and five steals, while Bernardini notched eight rebounds. Miles Cartwright chipped in with eight points, while Fran Dougherty had three rebounds and blocked three shots. The Quakers hit 10-of-20 from 3-point range in the win, helping Penn improve to 2-0 in Ivy League play.

Penn jumped out to a 6-0 lead, and despite hanging around, Cornell could never get back to equal. Miller opened up his monster game with consecutive baskets, including a conventional three-point play, to cut the deficit to 6-5, but Bernardini answered with a 3-pointer.

It was that kind of night for the Big Red, as Rosen hit six of his first seven shots as the Quakers crept out to a 21-11 advantage nearly 12 minutes in. A layup by Cartwright made it 28-15 with 4:35 remaining, but the Big Red went on a late 7-2 run and had the ball with under 30 seconds left down just 33-25 and with plenty of momentum. Cornell turned it over, however, as Camryn Crocker earned a steal, and Rosen found Steve Rennard with a long pass ahead for a 3-pointer at the horn to send the visitors to the locker room with a 36-25 edge instead.

The second half saw the Quakers methodically build the lead to double figures, going up 15 on a Marin Kukoc 3-pointer with under eight minutes left, then pumping that up to 16 points (58-42) two minutes later on a Rosen trey. Consecutive baskets, including a 3-pointer by Ferry, got Cornell within 58-47 with five minutes to play, but the home team wouldn't get any closer.

The Big Red will look to pick up its first road win of the year when it meets Columbia on Saturday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. at Levien Gymnasium in New York City.

Box Score (PDF)

ITHACA, N.Y. - In a game that it led from start to finish, the Penn men's basketball team put the finishing touches on a weekend sweep with a 64-52 win at Cornell Saturday night. The win pushed the Quakers to 2-0 in the Ivy League and 9-9 overall, while Cornell fell to 6-10, 1-1 Ivy.

Rob Belcore hit a three-pointer on Penn's opening possession, the Red and Blue scored the game's first six points, and they never trailed after that. While Penn was unable to fully put away a young but athletic Cornell squad until the very end of the night, the Big Red could never get closer than eight points in the final 30 minutes.

The first half was, quite simply, the Zack Rosen show. The senior guard scoed 13 points, hitting six of his seven shots from the field. He also had three assists and two steals. It was a two-point game, at 9-7, when Rosen scored six of Penn's next seven points and pushed the Quakers out to a 16-9 advantage. Galal Cancer then scored for the Big Red, but Tyler Bernardini hit a three off a Rosen feed, and then Rosen hit another jumper to push the Quakers' lead up to 21-11.

Rosen's performance brought about something that the Quakers haven't seen this year: a box-and-1 defense. The Big Red went to that for the final five minutes of the stanza, taking Rosen out of the game, but Penn was able to extend its lead anyway. A key sequence occurred right at the end of the half, when the Red and Blue held the Big Red to a shot-clock violation, and then in the final 2.6 seconds found Steve Rennard for a three-point shot that he hit to make it 36-25 at the break.

In the second half, Bernardini was the person who kept Cornell at bay. He had 12 points and six rebounds in the period, going 5-of-6 from the field in 16 minutes. The Big Red got within eight points early in the stanza, but Bernardini scored the next four points and then Rennard knocked down two free throws to make the score 47-33.

Rosen and Bernardini ended up tying for scoring honors, with 18 points each, while Bernardini collected eight rebounds and Rosen finished with five assists and five steals.

For Cornell, freshman Shonn Miller filled the box score with 19 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. He was the only Big Red player to score in double figures. Drew Ferry had eight points, while Chris Wroblewski had four points, six assists and four steals.

Penn returns to action next Saturday, hosting Saint Joseph's in its final Philadelphia Big 5 and non-conference game of the 2011-12 season. The Quakers and Hawks will tip off at 7 p.m. at The Palestra.

ITHACA, N.Y., — In four long years, Tyler Bernardini had never won a game at Newman Arena. The average margin of victory for Cornell at home was 17 points.

Saturday night, the fifth-year senior made sure he would leave upstate New York with at least one win, and his 18 points led Penn men’s basketball to a 64-52 win to complete the sweep on Penn’s first Ivy League weekend.

The Quakers (9-9, 2-0 Ivy) held Cornell (6-10, 1-1) to a season low in points — 15 below the Big Red’s season average. For the second straight night, the Quakers stifled their opponents with their man-to-man defense.

“The challenge is, night in and night out, committing to that,” coach Jerome Allen said of his team’s defense. “That’s a credit to those guys and their commitment to playing with one another.”

Penn limited Cornell’s leading scorers Drew Ferry and Chris Wroblewski to eight and four points, respectively. The two were a combined 2-for-8 from three.

Bernardini, who shot 7-for-12, 3-for-4 from three, also finished with eight rebounds to lead Penn.

“It was interesting. Cornell throws different defenses at you, they try to scheme it up a little bit. You have to be patient and take what the defense gives you,” Bernardini said. “We’re going to be successful because we’ve got Zack [Rosen] at the point guard and he’s one of the best decision makers I’ve ever played with.”

Rosen, too was happy to leave Ithaca with at least one career ‘W.’ He matched Bernardini’s 18 on the floor, adding five assists.

The Quakers lead wire to wire after Rob Belcore opened the game with a three. Penn shot 52 percent in the first half, as Zack Rosen went 6-for-7 from the floor to guide the Red and Blue to a comfortable 11 point lead at the break after sophomore guard Steve Rennard nailed a three as time expired.

Rennard played 25 minutes in the tail end of the Ivy back-to-back after Miles Cartwright fouled out just after the final media time out.

Unlike the previous night at Columbia when the Quakers’ nine-point lead evaporated in the final minutes, Cornell could only narrow the deficit to eight in the second half.

Cornell freshman Shonn Miller led the Big Red with 19 points.

Allen hesitated before agreeing that this was his team’s best win yet of the season.

“Hopefully this wasn’t our best game of the year, especially with all the games left.” As well as the Quakers played, their slate still contains two matchups with No. 25 Harvard.

With a clean record one weekend in, the Quakers return to the Palestra for their final Big 5 matchup against St. Joseph’s Saturday before returning to Ivy play against Princeton.

ITHACA, N.Y. - Competing in a conference in which many predict Harvard to just about run the table, Penn could not afford to split its opening weekend of Ivy League play in New York.

On Saturday night, coming off a win over Columbia the previous evening, the Quakers (9-9, 2-0 Ivy) avoided that fate by downing the Big Red, 64-52. The win was the first for Penn's seniors at Newman Arena.

Penn's suffocating, man-to-man defense asserted its will from the opening tip, holding Cornell (6-10, 1-1) to 38 percent shooting in the first half and forcing the Big Red offense to devolve into one-on-one basketball on a number of possessions.

The defensive emphasis was no accident.

"[Penn coach Jerome Allen] is just in our heads every day about defensive rotations," senior swingman Tyler Bernardini said. "We're kind of sick of it, so I think the only way for us to tell him, 'OK we got it,' is to actually go out and do it."

Allen seemed pleased with the effort.

"I thought the guys did an excellent job of responding the first time we got into this back-to-back situation," he said.

Penn guard Zack Rosen carved up the Cornell defense in the first half, penetrating almost untouched to the basket for several layups. Big Red coach Bill Courtney gave Rosen a few different looks, but the captain netted 13 first-half points on 6-for-7 shooting.

Rosen's scoring punch helped the Quakers jump out to a 13-point lead in the early going, and the margin would have been even greater had the Penn offense been able to convert a few layups and hit its free throws - Penn shot just 4 for 8 from the line in the first period.

Bernardini's 18 points marked the second straight game in which he and Rosen each tallied 15 or more points.

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