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Big Red off to better start in Ivy League as Harvard looms
CU Men's Basketball
SATURDAY: Cornell 65, Columbia 60
RECORD: 7-11 overall, 2-2 Ivy League
NEXT: Friday at Harvard (18-2, 4-0)
ITHACA -- Bill Courtney knows the results might not suggest it, but he is certain that his Cornell men's basketball team is a better squad this season than at this time last season.
Despite being four games below .500 overall and winless on the road, his team is 2-2 in the Ivy League after Saturday's 65-60 defeat of Columbia. Compared to last season's 0-5 conference start, that is real progress.
"That's a big change, and you've got to be pleased with that," Courtney said Saturday after seeing his club withstand a 20-6 Columbia run in the second half that tied the game with eight minutes left.
The Big Red (7-11 overall) went 5-for-6 from the foul line in the final two minutes and, despite two key turnovers while nursing a three-point lead, held on before an appreciative crowd of 4,103.
"I thought the schedule set up well for us to get off to a good start," he said. "We lost a home game (Jan. 14 vs. Pennsylvania), and we lost a game we could have got last week (at Columbia), so that's a disappointment, but 2-2 is obviously growth from where we were last year. I know we're a better team than we were last year, I know that for sure. We've just got to get some results that prove that out."
Saturday's result might prove to be the first of those for the Red. Senior point guard Chris Wroblewski scored eight of his game-high 19 points in a torrid first four minutes of the second half, sparking a run that put the home team ahead by 14 points with 15:13 to play.
Junior guard Johnathan Gray scored 14 points and freshman forward Shonn Miller added 10 points, seven rebounds and two spectacular blocks for the Red, which shot 41.5 percent.
Gray said Wroblewski's catching fire can ignite the rest of the team.
"He's our leader," he said. "Whenever we can, we just want to get him good looks at the basket. When he's going, it gets us going."
Columbia (12-8, 1-3 Ivy League) was led by junior point guard Brian Barbour, who scored 16 of his 19 points after intermission. He keyed the Lions' seven-minute surge through the middle of the second period that turned a 47-33 deficit into a 53-all game with 8:04 left.
"He's an incredible point guard, and all the credit to him," Wroblewski said. "I couldn't keep him in front of me, and he made some ridiculous shots."
Wroblewski was relieved his shot started falling after some early frustration this season. He finished 5-for-8, including 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.
"It feels good," said Wroblewski, whose confidence might have been bolstered at the end of the first half, when he flung the ball, baseball-style, from about 70 feet away a split second after the horn sounded and drained it.
"It's tough, because I feel like I'm shooting well in practice," he said. "I've been coming in here between classes and putting in the extra work. And not having that show up in the games has been tough, you can get down on yourself. So a game like this gives me a little confidence."
A confidence-booster like Saturday's win comes at the right time for Cornell, which sets its sights on Friday in Cambridge, Mass., with a game against Harvard (18-2, 4-0). The Crimson have fallen out of the national rankings since a loss to Fordham on Jan. 3, but are still the unquestioned cream of the crop in the Ivies and coming off a weekend sweep of Yale (65-35) and Brown (68-59).
"If we play well, and play like we do in practice, then we'll have a chance," Courtney said. "We've also got to guard them, but the biggest thing is, you've got to score. You look at what they did against Yale (Friday) night, and we know you've got to put the ball in the basket."
Box Score (PDF)
Photo Gallery (photos by Patrick Shanahan)
ITHACA, NY – The expectation entering the season would be that nearly every Ivy League game would be a war. In this game, a fullcourt bomb helped awaken the Big Red offense.
Cornell earned a split of the season series with Columbia with a 65-60 win at Newman Arena on Saturday evening. The Big Red improved to 7-11 (2-2 Ivy), while the Lions slipped to 12-8 (1-3 Ivy) with the loss.
Senior guard Chris Wroblewski paced three Big Red players in double figures with 19 points on 5-for-8 shooting, including a 4-for-6 effort from the 3-point line. Wroblewski also dished out a game-high five assists and added seven rebounds and two steals. His fullcourt, one-handed heave just after the buzzer seemed to awaken the Big Red fans and appeared to be the symbolic moment when the senior co-captain launched himself out of a season-long shooting slump.
Cornell also got 14 points from junior guard Johnathan Gray and 10 points, seven rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals from freshman forward Shonn Miller. The Big Red shot 42 percent from the floor and limited the Lions to 37 percent shooting, including a miserable 4-of-22 from beyond the arc (18 percent).
Brian Barbour had a team-high 19 points and added five assists for the Lions, while Mark Cisco had his second consecutive double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Alex Rosenberg rounded out the double figure scorers with 10 points.
Cornell held just a 60-59 lead with 1:49 left to play before putting the game away by shooting 5-for-6 from the foul line in the last 1:40. Gray shot 4-for-4 during that span. Following a 30-second timeout with 11 seconds to play. Columbia's Brian Barbour missed a 3-pointer that would of tied the game at 63 with three seconds left. The Big Red rebounded and Gray nailed consecutive charity shots to put the game out of reach.
Wroblewski wowed the crowd of more than 4,100 with a length of the court 3-pointer at the end of the the first half that came just after the buzzer. Cornell rode the momentum after the break to turn a 30-23 lead into a 14-point bulge with a 17-10 run to open the second half. Columbia was able to even the score at 56-56, but Cornell never trailed in the final 28 minutes.
Much like a week ago in New York City, the home team took control midway through the first, ran out to a double figure lead and looked poised to collect an easy win. Then the visitors made a run, getting right back in it, only to see the home team grab control of the momentum again in the final minutes in front of a vocal crowd to earn a hard-fought win.
Such is the history with Cornell-Columbia basketball.
The Big Red started a lineup with four guards and center Eitan Chemerinski and succeeded in neutralizing Mark Cisco, who ripped the Big Red for 18 points and 20 rebounds a week prior. Though Cisco continued to dominate the backboards with seven in the first seven minutes and nine before the break, Cornell was able to successfully speed up the Lions, who ended the half with eight turnovers while making just 29 percent of its shots (7-of-24).
The second half saw the Big Red really open it up, scoring 17 points in the first 4:47 to extend the lead to 47-33 after the last of three straight 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. Gray's two treys were sandwiched around one by Max Groebe. The Lions methodically cut into the lead and even appeared to take a lead on a made basket by Rosenberg, but the freshman was instead called for a charge with 6:42 left on the clock. A minute and a half later, John Daniels tied the game on a tip-in, but the game's sixth tie would only last for 17 seconds, long enough for Cornell's Miller to pull through, get into the lane and hit an acrobatic running layup to give the Big Red the lead it would never relinquish.
Six times in the final five minutes, the Lions attempted a shot to tie or take the lead, but missed each attempt. Cornell played brilliant defense on Barbour's game-tying attempt with less than five seconds to go and rebounded the miss to even the team's record in Ivy play.
Cornell returns to action when it heads to Harvard on Friday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge, Mass.
Just after the halftime buzzer sounded, senior guard and co-captain Chris Wroblewski threw the basketball from Columbia’s 3-point line, 75 feet away from the basket, toward the rim. Instead of looking away and walking off the court, he watched it swish through the net as referees, teammates and fans all cracked a smile at his incredible shot. Although the play had no tangible impact on the final score, it appeared to give Wroblewski enough confidence to play one of his best games of the season as he helped Cornell (7-11, 2-2 Ivy League) beat Columbia (12-8, 1-3), 65-60, to avenge last week’s loss in New York City.
Wroblewski had one of his strongest performances so far this season, filling the stat sheet with 19 points — including 4-of-6 shooting from downtown — seven rebounds, five assists and just two turnovers. The co-captain did most of his work at the start of the second half, right after his incredible heave at the end of the first half. He nailed two 3-pointers and added two free throws to score the Red’s first eight points, expanding the lead to 11.
“It feels good; it feels really good,” Wroblewski replied when asked about his shooting. “This is has been a frustrating year for me shooting-wise. I’ve been struggling and it’s tough because I’m shooting well in practice and I’m getting [in the gym] in between classes and putting in the extra work. Not having that show up in the game, you get down on yourself.”
“[Chris] is our leader; we really want to go to him a lot and whenever we can,” said junior guard Johnny Gray, who finished the game with 14 points and seven rebounds. “We want to give him good looks, especially since when he’s going, it gets us going. Seeing him getting into the game and knowing that he’s hot, everyone follows his lead.”
To match Wroblewski’s strong start after halftime was Columbia’s point guard Brian Barbour. He scored Columbia’s first 10 points in the second half to keep the Lions in the game, matching Wroblewski shot-for-shot. Barbour finished the game with 19 points and five assists, committing just one turnover. The guard did most of his damage in the second half of the game, scoring 16 of his 19 and dishing out three assists.
“[Barbour] is an incredible point guard — all the credit to him,” Wroblewski said. “I couldn’t keep him in front of me and he made some ridiculous shots. He’s crafty [and] he’s tough to guard.”
“Brian Barbour got it going a little bit, causing us trouble in transition and just attacking the basket and finishing and-ones,” Gray added. “We wanted to make it as difficult as possible [since] we knew that he would get going eventually but we wanted to make sure we hounded him for 40 minutes.”
The start of the game was not as exciting as the start of the second half. After losing last week at Columbia, head coach Bill Courtney experimented with the starters, using a four-guard lineup.
“The four-guard set is just one of our strengths,” Gray said. “We have a lot of guards who can handle the ball and it causes other defenses fits. They have to probably put a big out there and we get mismatches and we use our speed. We have a lot of guards out here that can get up and down the court, which causes other defenses to have to get back in transition.”
Both teams had trouble shooting the ball out of the gates, as the game was tied, 13-13, with 8:28 to go in the half. The Red’s offense suddenly came to life as shots started falling. Cornell expanded the lead to 10 at one point and entered the half leading, 30-23.
The game went back-and-forth for several minutes, with neither team pulling ahead by more than 4 points. With 1:25 left and the Red up three, 62-59, the Lions had a chance to tie the game, as they attempted three open 3-pointers in one possession after securing two offensive rebounds. Luckily for the Red, all three attempts missed the mark. Despite a late lapse, Cornell’s overall effort rebounding the ball was much improved compared to last week, where Columbia held the advantage on the glass, 45-29.
“We got dominated on the boards last week and we really wanted to make an effort to get on the boards, block out [center Mark] Cisco and [forward John] Daniels and try to get rebounds,” Gray emphasized. “They’re not really going to score a lot in their half-court offense, they were [just] getting a lot of second chance points … We just wanted to cut those out and it helped us get the win.”
The game came down to Columbia’s final possession, when freshman guard Galal Cancer covered Barbour perfectly, forcing him to throw up a desperation fade-away 3 that harmlessly bounced off the rim. Gray grabbed the rebound and was promptly fouled and hit both free throws, leading to the final score, 65-60.
This game helped the Red regain its confidence after a tough loss at Columbia last week and is now ready to take on the rest of the Ivy League, according to Wroblewski.
“This one was a must-win for us, especially [with] a big weekend coming up — going to Harvard and Dartmouth — and to get back to [2-2] in the league, but more so for our morale and confidence,” Wroblewski said. “I thought we played our tails off … I’m so proud we got the win.”
ITHACA, N.Y.—For the third time in four games, the Lions found themselves in a large hole in the middle of the second half. For the third time in four games, they managed to stage a comeback and pull within two points with less than 30 seconds to play. For the third time in four games, they came up just short, losing to Cornell 65-60 on Saturday night.
“You know it’s an Ivy League game—same deal,” head coach Kyle Smith said after the game.
“We’re just 1-3 in these situations. We had a number of shots to tie it or even go ahead.”
The fact that the men’s basketball team (12-8, 1-3 Ivy) had several chances to tie the game was surprising, given that it was trailing the Big Red (7-11, 2-2 Ivy) by 14 with 15 minutes remaining in the second half. Cornell took a seven-point lead into halftime and opened it up in the first five minutes after intermission by knocking down five consecutive threes.
Senior guard Chris Wroblewski made the first two of those treys and led his team with 19 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Last week at Levien, Wroblewski was just 3-of-13 from the field and 0-for-7 from beyond the arc.
“I knew he’d eventually snap out of his shooting slump, and unfortunately, it was tonight,” Smith said.
The bleeding could have been much worse if Brian Barbour had not stepped up. The junior guard had just three points in the first half, but scored Columbia’s first 10 points of the second half.
“What casual observers probably don’t recognize is that they load up so hard on him in the first half,” Smith said of Barbour. “I think they wore down a bit—they can’t guard him that way the whole time.”
Barbour finished the game with a team-high 19 points on 6-for-15 shooting. As he had in the Light Blue’s close losses to Princeton and Penn two weeks ago, Barbour put on an impressive second-half performance to put his team back in the game, only for Columbia to come up just short.
“Each one gets worse a little bit—hurts more and more,” Barbour said.
“It’s tough coming all the way up here, fighting back, and then not being able to pull it out. Having to travel back is not going to be as fun, but, you know, we’re right there, which is a positive—you got to try to look at the positives after these things. We’re so close, so we just got to keep going.”
Still, the Lions had their chances. With about 12 minutes to play, junior center Mark Cisco hit his second consecutive jumper to bring Cornell’s lead back to eight, and the Light Blue continued to chip away from there.
With 1:49 left to play, freshman guard Noah Springwater hit two free throws to cut the deficit to 60-59. Two foul shots by Cornell junior guard Johnathan Gray brought the Big Red’s lead back to three, but the Lions had three opportunities on their next possession to tie the game. However, all of those three-point attempts—by Barbour, freshman forward Alex Rosenberg, and sophomore guard Meiko Lyles—were off the mark.
Cisco, who had a career game against Cornell last weekend with 18 points and 20 rebounds, was obviously a focus of the Big Red’s defense this week. His two jumpers were his only shots of the second half.
“They were defending me really hard,” Cisco said. “Every time I got the ball, they were straight doubling me. But, you know, I was trying to kick it out to the guards—some of those fell, some of those didn’t.”
Still, Cisco recorded his third consecutive double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“I played all right. I could do better,” Cisco said.
What was perhaps the difference in the game was Columbia’s poor shooting from three-point territory. The Lions made just four of their 22 attempts from beyond the arc (18.2 percent) and have struggled from downtown since the start of league play.
“We’re getting good shots. We just got to hit them—that’s all it comes down to,” Barbour said. “I know we’re going to, I know it’s going to come, but it’s tough when you miss a couple.”
The Light Blue will need those shots to fall when it takes on league-leading and nationally-ranked Harvard next Saturday after facing off against Dartmouth on Friday.
ITHACA, N.Y. - Columbia's last five games had been decided by seven points or fewer. When Cornell built a 47-33 lead with 15 minutes to play after leading by seven at halftime, it appeared that the Big Red was on its way to a rare double-digit victory.
But Columbia rallied back, on the strength of 16 second-half points by Brian Barbour and strong contributions from its bench to tie the game at 53 with eight minutes remaining. But the Lions could not complete the comeback as Cornell came away with a 65-60 win at Newman Arena on Saturday night.
Both teams did not shoot well from the field to open the game, similar to last week's defensive struggle between the Ivy League travel partners. After the Lions led 13-10 with nine minutes left, the Big Red embarked on an 18-5 run to go up by 10, 28-18 with two minutes left. Columbia cut the deficit to seven points, 30-23, at halftime.
Barbour came out of halftime on fire, scoring 10 straight points for the Lions in the first three minutes of the second half. His triple brought the Lions within five, 38-33, at the 17-minute mark.
Cornell then hit three straight three-pointers, two by Jonathan Gray, to take a 47-33 lead with 15:13 left in the game.
Noah Springwater answered with a deep three-pointer to start Columbia's comeback. Cornell still led 53-43 after a putback by Shonn Miller but Barbour found Alex Rosenberg for a three-pointer on Columbia's next possession to cut the Cornell lead to seven.
After forcing a missed three at the defensive end, Barbour took the ball the length of the court and converted a conventional three-point play to make it a 53-49 game. Cornell then turned the ball over and on an inbounds play, Rosenberg broke free for an uncontested layup to make it a two-point game. Columbia forced another Cornell miss and Barbour found John Daniels cutting to the hoop for two, tying the game at 53 with eight minutes left.
The game remained tied at 56 after a putback by Daniels with 5:10 left to play. Miller scored at the other end to put Cornell back in front by two and after a Columbia missed three, Chris Wroblewski hit two free throws to put the Big Red ahead by four, 60-56, with four minutes left.
The Lions trailed by three, 62-59, with 1:40 remaining and had three good looks to tie the game but were unable to connect. Columbia was able to force a turnover and after Barbour hit one of two free throws, trailed 62-60 with 19 seconds remaining.
Columbia fouled Drew Ferry, who made one of two free throws to make it a three-point game again. The Lions had possession with 14 seconds left and Barbour's off-balance three-point attempt went just long with time winding down. Gray made two free throws with six-tenths of a second left for the final margin.
"We had chances to tie and we've got to execute and make those shots, " head coach Kyle Smith said after the game. "I'll take our chances on the road with those guys [shooting]."
Barbour finished with 19 points and five assists against one turnover. Mark Cisco posted his third straight double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) and his fourth of the season. Rosenberg added 10 points and four rebounds for the Lions.
"We had good energy and good momentum," Smith said of the second-half comeback. "We just couldn't get over the hump."
Wroblewski's 19 points led Cornell, which received 14 points and seven boards from Gray. Miller had 10 points, seven rebounds and two blocked shots off the bench.
Columbia will be back to Ivy League action on the road at Dartmouth on Friday, February 3 at 7 p.m.
Van Green had a career-high four steals in 16 minutes off the bench for Columbia ... John Daniels finished with six points and nine rebounds ... Steve Egee scored five points in his first start of the season ... Columbia outrebounded Cornell 37-33 and 12-8 on the offensive glass ... the Lions made just four of 22 from three-point range ... both teams had 14 turnovers ... it was Newman Nation Jersey Night at Cornell and more than a thousand students came out for the promotion ... the Lions had won the previous three games with the Big Red.