Saturday, February 11, 2012

Game Recap: Cornell 85, Yale 84 (OT)


Junior Johnathan Gray netted a career-high 29 points and senior point guard Chris Wroblewski added 18 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds with zero turnovers to lead the Cornell men's basketball team to an exhilarating 85-84 overtime victory against Yale Friday evening at Newman Arena.

The Big Red is 9-12 overall and 4-3 in the Ivy League heading into tonight's home game with Brown. The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 15-6 and 5-2 in the conference.

Friday's game featured a frenetic pace and clutch shotmaking from both sides, as an incredible nine points were scored in the final minute of regulation.

"This is huge for us," Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. "The way (Yale) shot the ball at the end of the game was unbelievable, but we were able to respond and we never hung our heads. To have them shoot the ball like that and still win the game, I think that says a lot about our team. Hopefully this propels us into continuing to play well."

After trailing 29-16 in the first half, Cornell closed on a 17-5 run to pull within 35-34 at halftime, before grabbing its first lead of the game on the first basket of the second half.

The Big Red held a slight cushion entering the closing minutes of regulation, before a thrilling 60 seconds sent the game to overtime. Yale went ahead, 67-66, on a pair of free throws with 57 seconds left before Wroblewski hit a jumper to put Cornell up 68-67 with 37 seconds remaining.

Yale went back up 69-68 with 20 seconds left, Gray replied with a 3-pointer to give Cornell a 71-69 advantage with 12 seconds remaining, then the Bulldogs' Austin Morgan tied the game at 71 with a layup with five seconds on the clock.

Gray continued his hot shooting in overtime, hitting two more 3-pointers and adding free throw in the final 10 seconds.

"It was a great feeling to be in that kind of game and hit those kind of big shots down the stretch," said Gray, who shot 10-of-18 overall and 6-of-8 from 3. "It was a team win. Obviously I played well, but I give a lot of credit to my teammates for finding me in good positions."

Morgan finished with 22 points on 6-of-14 shooting to lead Yale, who shot 52.7 percent to Cornell's 45.8 percent. The Big Red made 12-of-26 3-pointers.

Box Score

Box Score (PDF)

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Junior Johnathan Gray had a career-high 29 points and senior Chris Wroblewski added 18 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds as the duo hit big shot after big shot in leading Cornell to an 85-84 overtime victory over Yale on Friday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red improved to 9-12 (4-3 Ivy), while the Bulldogs fell to 15-6 (5-2 Ivy).

Gray, who bested his previous career high of 18 points set earlier this year against Bucknell, hit 10-of-18 shots from the floor and 6-of-8 shots from 3-point range. He added six rebounds in the victory. Wroblewski was also outstanding, particularly in the final three minutes of regulation and overtime. He ended the night with zero turnovers while repeatedly getting the Big Red shots late in the contest. He nailed a pair of huge jumpers in the final two minutes and set up Eitan Chemerinski for a layup and Gray for a trey that led to overtime.

The Big Red's pressure defense caused fits for the Bulldogs, as Cornell scored 23 points off 15 Yale turnovers. The home team won despite allowing the bigger Bulldogs to shoot 53 percent from the floor by hitting 71 percent in the extra period as the Big Red improved to 3-0 in overtime at home this season and 3-1 overall. Cornell hit 12 3-pointers and assisted on 20 baskets. The home team overcame a 14-point first half deficit to win its third contest in the last four outings.

Austin Morgan had a team-high 22 points to lead four Yale players in double figures, with Michael Grace scoring 15, Greg Mangano notching 14 and Jeremiah Kreisberg posting 13 points and nine boards.

Tied 62-62 at the final media timeout, Wroblewski rebounded a missed Moragn jumper, then found Chemerinski on a slip for a layup on the next possession. After rebounding another miss by Morgan, Drew Ferry had a 3-pointer blocked, but Wroblewski tipped the ball out for an offensive rebound, then got it back and hit a jumper from inside the key over Mangano to put Cornell up 66-62 with two minutes remaining. Yale's Grace hit a 3-pointer to get the visitors back within one, and after a Mangano block, Reggie Willhite was fouled and made both free throws to put the Bulldogs ahead 67-66 with a minute to play.

Wroblewski again made a play, hitting a baseline jumper to put Cornell back up one with 38 ticks left on the clock, and Morgan answered on the other end with a layup to put Yale back in the lead again with 20 seconds to play (69-68). Undaunted, Wroblewski found a wide open Gray off the dribble and the former walk-on canned his fourth 3-pointer of the night to make Cornell's lead 71-69 with 12 seconds left. But that wasn't it. Morgan took the inbounds pass, drove the length of the floor and got a floater to drop to knot the score with four seconds left, but the Big Red had its desperation shot blocked by Mangano to send the game into the extra session.

Once in overtime, Cornell continued to make plays. After forcing a Yale miss, Tarwater rebounded a missed Ferry 3-pointer in traffic and put it back in. Though Yale tied it up, a free throw by Chemerinski gave the Big Red a lead it wouldn't relinquish. Cornell's defense got a stop and Wroblewski again found Gray wide open for a 3-pointer to make it 77-73. A jumper by Tarwater pushed the lead back to four after Yale scored, and Gray's second trey of overtime and sixth of the night with 1:32 left gave the Big Red an 82-78 edge.

Yale still wouldn't go away, with Willhite knocking down a trey with a minute to play, but Wroblewski - again - hit a step-back jumper inside of 30 seconds. The Big Red forced a miss and Gray knocked down the first of two free throws to seal the win. Grace knocked in a meaningless 3-pointer at the buzzer to make the score 85-84.

Few in the arena would have predicted such an exciting outcome after watching the first 15 minutes. Yale built a double digit lead in the first five minutes and went up as many as 14 points (32-18) with 5:32 left in the first half before Cornell came to life. The Big Red ended the half on a 15-2 run capped by a buzzer-beating basket on the break by Chemerinski after 3-pointers by Gray and Miller to go into the locker room within 34-33. Yale shot 52 percent from the floor by halftime and held a 23-14 edge on the backboard.

Cornell proved it was in the game to stay by scoring the first five points of the second half to take a 38-34 edge. Gray scooped up an offensive rebound and put it back and Wroblewski, after a steal and offensive rebound by Gray, found Miller for another 3-pointer. The game went back-and-forth, shot-for-shot, with Cornell leading by as many as six (51-45) to set up the dramatic finish.

The Big Red will next play host to Brown on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.

| Box Score |

ITHACA, N.Y. – Johnathan Gray scored seven of his career-high 29 points in overtime to lift Cornell to an 85-84 victory over Yale before a crowd of 1,876 at Newman Arena. Chris Wroblewski added 18 points and 10 assists for the Big Red.

Austin Morgan paced the Bulldogs with 22 points, including a driving layup with five seconds left that forced the extra period. Michael Grace scored 15 points, and Jeremiah Kreisberg had 13 points and nine rebounds.

Yale (15-6, 5-2 Ivy) led by 14 points in the first half but then had to rally from a six-point second-half deficit.

The last minute of regulation was wild. Two Reggie Willhite free throws gave the Bulldogs a 67-66 lead with 57 seconds remaining, but Wroblewski immediately answered with a jumper.

Willhite then missed a jumper, and after a mad scramble for the rebound, the ball came to Morgan, who scored to give Yale a 69-68 lead with 20 seconds left.

Gray then hit a three-pointer from the wing with 12 seconds left.

Morgan, though, raced up court and hit the tying layup.

Greg Mangano blocked a Wroblewski shot as time expired to force overtime.

The pace in the extra period was just as frantic. Dwight Tarwater's jumper gave Cornell a 79-75 lead with 2:36 remaining. Morgan then hit a three-pointer, but Gray answered with a three-pointer of his own.

Willhite's three-pointer pulled Yale back within one. After a Wroblewski jumper, the Bulldogs had a chance to tie, but Morgan missed a three with nine seconds remaining. Gray grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit one of two free throws with six seconds left.

Grace made a last-second three-pointer to cap the scoring.

The Big Red (9-12, 4-3 Ivy) made 5-of-7 shots from the field in the overtime, while Yale was 4-of-8.

Cornell was 12-of-26 from three-point range in the game. Much of the damage came from Gray, who entered the night shooting just 20.8 percent from beyond the arc but made 6-of-8.

Willhite had another solid all-around game for the Bulldogs, finishing with nine points, seven rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. Brandon Sherrod and Matt Townsend each contributed four points off the bench.

NOTES: The Bulldogs remain in second place in the Ivy League but now trail Harvard by two games. The Crimson knocked off Penn 56-50 at The Palestra… Newman Arena continues to be a house of horrors for the Bulldogs, who lost in the building for the eighth straight time. Two of those losses have now come in overtime, and a third was a one-point loss… Mangano, despite getting in foul trouble, finished with 14 points, five rebounds and three blocks… Yale plays at Columbia on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Lions cruised to an 86-60 win over Brown on Friday.

On Friday night, the Bulldogs came out on the wrong end of a one-point game at Cornell, but captain Reggie Willhite ’12 made sure that did not happen again at Columbia on Saturday.

Willhite scored 24 points, including the game-winning lay-up, with 13.4 seconds to play, as the Elis came back to stun Columbia 59–58 a day after a disappointing 85–84 overtime loss to Cornell (10–12, 5–3 Ivy).

The Lions (14-10, 3-5) led 51–30 with 11:30 remaining in the second half, but the Bulldogs (16-6, 6-2 Ivy) outscored Columbia 29–7 the rest of the way.

“[Head coach James Jones] kept telling us we weren’t going to get it all back in one possession,” forward Brandon Sherrod ’15 said. “[Jones said] we have to keep chipping away.”

Forward Greg Mangano ’12 had not made a field goal before the run, but his three followed one of Willhite’s seven steals to cut the deficit to 55–50 with under five minutes left, forcing a Columbia timeout. Columbia’s Meiko Lyles hit a triple to come out of the timeout, but that would be the Lions’ final basket of the evening.

Willhite cut through the Columbia defense all night long, and he hit two more baskets after the timeout before guard Jesse Pritchard ’14 hit the biggest shot of his career from beyond the arc with 36 seconds left, making for a one-point ball game. Pritchard said that his mind was clear when he pulled the trigger on the three.

“I wasn’t really thinking,” Pritchard said. “When I caught the ball I just got my feet set and knocked it down.”

The Lions did not appear to have the same ice running through their veins. After Willhite’s basket, senior forward Blaise Staab went to the free throw line with 3.2 seconds until the final buzzer, but the pressure got to him, and he missed both attempts.

The Bulldogs got the miss that they needed against Columbia, but Cornell guard Jonathan Gray seemingly could not miss Friday night as he scored a career-high 29 points to upend the Elis in Ithaca.

“He was hot,” Sherrod said. “He really wasn’t missing anything. Every shot was nothing but net.”

Gray connected from downtown with 12 seconds left in regulation to give Cornell a 71–69 lead after being down by as many as 13 points. Bulldog guard Austin Morgan ’13 forced overtime with a lay-up, but two more threes from Gray and a free throw sunk the Elis’ victory chances.

Morgan scored a team-high 22 points and all five Bulldog starters scored at least nine points.

Yale had fallen two games behind No. 21 Harvard (21-3, 7-1) with the loss to Cornell, but Harvard fell 70–62 at Princeton Saturday. The Elis are now one game behind the Ancient Eight-leading Cantabs as they prepare to clash in Cambridge Feb. 18.

“We got embarrassed [the last time Yale played Harvard],” Sherrod said. “We want revenge.”

Sherrod added, however, that the Elis have to take each game one at a time. Morgan agreed with his younger teammate, stressing the importance of not looking ahead.

“We’re mostly thinking about Dartmouth,” Morgan said. “The next day we’ll think about Harvard.”

The Bulldogs travel next to Hanover, N.H. on Feb. 17 to face Dartmouth.

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