Monday, February 11, 2013

Game Recap: Cornell 79, Dartmouth 56

(Photo Cornell Daily Sun)

The last three words Cornell men’s basketball coach Bill Courtney wrote on the scouting report for Sunday’s game against Dartmouth were, “Attack, attack, attack.”

That is exactly what the Big Red did as it bounced back from its heartbreaking Friday night loss to Harvard in a big way, rolling past the Big Green, 79-56, before a crowd of 1,978 at Newman Arena. The game was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but postponed due to the effects of the winter storm that passed through the Northeast on Friday and Saturday.

Dominick Scelfo and Shonn Miller scored 15 points apiece to lead the Big Red (11-12 overall, 3-3 IVy League), which won for the seventh time in its last 11 games. On Friday, the Big Red trailed defending conference champion Harvard by 15 points with 4:21 to play and went on a 13-0 run over the remainder of the game but fell just short, 67-65.

“I thought our guys did a great job (on Sunday),” Courtney said.

“I thought Harvard attacked us on Friday, and I thought we attacked Dartmouth right from the beginning.”

Nolan Cressler came off the bench and shot 5-for-6 from the floor for 15 points, while senior Errick Peck added 11 points and seven assists for Cornell, which took a 103-102 lead in the all-time series with the Big Green, which dates back to 1900-01.

The Big Red opened the game with a 12-2 run before Dartmouth (6-14, 2-4) trimmed the deficit to five points. A 3-pointer by Cressler sparked a 17-5 spurt. Cornell continued to build on its lead, and had a commanding 45-23 advantage at the break. Dartmouth’s offense could never find a rhythm, mostly thanks to Miller, a one-man wrecking crew with six blocks and five steals. Half of Miller’s blocks came on one possession, when he blocked three consecutive shot attempts.

Miller also electrified the crowd with several dunks and earned praise from Courtney.

“Miller was tremendous, especially defensively,” Courtney said. “He made up for other guys’ mistakes and really set the tone.”

Peck also helped the Red in the early going, scoring nine of his 11 points in the first half, including a three pointer. Peck helped Miller slowed down Dartmouth’s offense even more with 5 rebounds and a pair of steals.

The Big Red made 17 of 27 shots in the opening frame while Dartmouth was just 7-for-28, with as many made baskets as turnovers.

In the second half, Cornell continued to pile on the points. The Big Red took its largest lead of the game, 29 points, with 8:31 to play.

Dartmouth started to trim the Cornell lead in the final minutes, but ultimately it was too much to overcome.

The win was Cornell’s first victory at home in over a month. The last time they won at home was on Jan. 12 against Division III SUNY College at Old Westbury, when Cornell recorded a season high in points in a 103-84 victory.

Tyler Melville’s 12 points led the Big Green, which had to settle for a weekend split after defeating Columbia on Friday, 60-57.

Against the Crimson, Cornell shot just 36 percent from the floor in the first half as the team failed to find a rhythm.

“We can’t beat ourselves at home,” Courtney said.

“We didn’t score in the first half and we need to get off to a better start.”

Dartmouth’s Connor Boehm went up for a layup under the hoop, finding himself beneath the 6-7 frame of sophomore Shonn Miller, who swatted his shot away. The black jersey-clad crowd of Newman nation rose to its feet as Boehm got the ball back and tried to go up with it again. Miller was still waiting, blocking the second attempt, this time into the hands of one of his teammates. These were just two of Miller’s six rejections on the day and part of a team defensive effort that stifled the Green all afternoon — forcing them to turn the ball over 18 times — and eventually giving the Red a 79-56 victory.

Though the Red ended the weekend with a win, it was not so successful Friday night against Harvard (13-7, 5-1 Ivy League), when a late game comeback came up just short in a 67-65 loss. 

The Crimson was dominant in the first half, heading into the locker room with a 16-point lead. Every time the Red tried to make a run, it was effectively silenced by the shooting of Crimson guards Siyani Chambers and Christian Webster. The rookie Chambers led the Crimson charge with 18 points and 11 assists, while Webster connected on five shots from beyond the arc en route to 17 points.

The first 15 minutes of the second half told a similar story, with the Crimson remaining dominant on offense, trying to work the shot clock to their advantage. With 4:21 left in the game, the Red trailed by 15. However, Cornell turned up its defensive pressure and went on a 13-0 run that ended with a jumper by senior Errick Peck to put the squad within two with 42 seconds to go.

“We did a good job pressuring every pass, every dribble, making it as difficult as possible for them to be comfortable in their offense,” said senior forward Eitan Chemerinski. “When we do that, we get easy opportunities off fast breaks, and that is when we are at our best.”

In that stretch, the Red forced the Crimson to cough the ball up twice, with one of the turnovers leading to a transition dunk by Miller.

“It wasn’t anything as far as x’s and o’s. ... We made a couple minor adjustments to stop the ball from getting out of the paint,” said senior guard Johnathan Gray. “Everybody one through five just played harder, we pressured the basketball every single moment and we kind of sped them up. They were trying to work the shot clock so that may have gotten them out of their rhythm.” 

Following the jumper by Peck, head coach Bill Courtney called a 30-second timeout. After the break, senior guard Miles Asafo-Adjei fouled Chambers, but he missed the front end of the one-and-one, giving the Red the ball back with 11 seconds to go. Peck corralled the rebound and brought it down court, putting up a three-pointer that did not fall.

“The call was to keep the court spread for Errick to go one-on-one low on his man. We wanted to let him have another chance to put us ahead,” Gray said.

Peck — who had a team high 17 points in the game — gave the Red an important boost in the final minutes with two free throws, two big rebounds and the jumper that brought the squad within two. 

“We wanted to let him decide whether to take it to the basket, or if his guy backed off him to shoot it,” Gray said. “We can’t go wrong with his decision. ... He played a phenomenal game.” 

On Sunday, against Dartmouth, the Red’s pesky defenders were bothering the Green from the very first possession, where they forced point guard Alex Mitola to turn the ball over. 

“We did a good job carrying over the defensive intensity from the last 10 minutes against Harvard and started off with great energy, and I think that got us going a little on offense,” Chemerinski said.

Even though the game was postponed a day because of the snowstorm, the delay did not cause the Red to forget what had carried it back into the game on Friday night. Asafo-Adjei was especially effective on the defensive end, shadowing the Green’s point guards wherever they moved on the court.

“We’re at our best when we’re scrambling around, up in the ball handler’s face,” Gray said. “We have so much speed and athleticism, if we don’t use it it will go to waste. Especially with Miles being probably the fastest point guard in the league. It makes our jobs a little bit easier to deny.”

On the offensive end, the Red saw significant production from its three point specialists — junior guard Dominick Scelfo and freshman guard Nolan Cressler. Scelfo knocked down five threes for 15 points and Cressler shot five of six from the field for 14 points. 

“They’re both great shooters. I think any time they get looks, we are confident they are going to knock them down,” Chemerinski said. “We did a good job dribble penetrating and kicking it out for some easier threes.”

Scelfo has seen a boost in his playing time in the start of Ivy League play as he continues to produce consistently. Against Harvard, he recorded a career-high five assists, including a rim-shaking alley-oop to Miller.

“Dom plays with a lot of confidence [and] we see it in practice. ... This was one of those games where every shot he got he was looking to shoot. We have to have that looking forward,” Gray said.

With an even record once again after splitting an Ivy weekend series, the Red understands that it is no longer enough to take one out of two games. With Harvard and Princeton both losing their first conference games this weekend, the Red is right back in the running, Gray said.

“It comes down to what kind of mentality we bring in, we have to focus on one game at a time,” Gray said. “We can’t focus on what Harvard or Princeton is doing, we’ve got to focus on winning the next game. What we have to do now is get good practices in Monday through Thursday so we’re well prepared for the weekend. That’s where it starts — in practice.”

Despite suffering a tough loss against Cornell University on Sunday, the Dartmouth men’s basketball team pulled off a win in a nail-biter against Columbia University on Friday night, breaking their 24-game road losing streak in Ivy League play. Columbia’s final efforts in the last minutes and a couple of missed free throws were not enough to top the Big Green (6-14, 2-4 Ivy), who finished ahead 60-57.

Dartmouth was an offensive threat, hitting 23 out of 45 shots overall, assisted by Connor Boehm ’16 with 20 points, and Alex Mitola ’16 with 17. Both teams came out of the game strong, with 20 lead changes in the first half alone. At the end of the period Dartmouth finished on top with a three-point lead, 29-26.

“We had a great mindset coming into the game,” Gabas Maldunas ’15 said. “We focused on rebounding and moving the ball around more.”

The team took that momentum with them into the second half, quickly racking up an 11-point lead with Tyler Melville ’14 scoring seven and assisting on a layup by John Golden ’15 almost five minutes into the second half. The Lions would not be tamed, though, and responded with a 14-2 run of their own featuring three consecutive triples — the only three-pointers Columbia (10-10, 2-4 Ivy) would hit all night. Boehm finally put an end to Columbia’s spurt with back-to-back 12-foot baseline jumpers to give the Big Green a 46-43 advantage with seven minutes left to play.

“We did a great job of executing the game plan of attacking inside and pushing the tempo,” Melville said. “We didn’t get rattled.”

As the game drew to a close, the atmosphere was tense as Columbia tied the game with a three-point play and free throw before the Lions’ senior forward John Daniels gave Columbia a 54-52 lead with a sensational slam dunk with 2:41 left in the game. Dartmouth was not going to let this game slip through their fingers, however. Mitola took control of the ball, sinking a free throw and driving through the lane for a layup to take the lead, then stealing the ball back and nailing a three-pointer to solidify a 58-54 lead with one minute remaining.

“In the second half, our team played with poise and composure,” Boehm said. “We hit our free throws, stayed confident under their pressure and rebounded well.”

More Columbia free throws in the last minute cut the lead more and more, but with 31.5 seconds to play, Melville hit two key free throws to crush the Lions’ hopes of a last-minute victory and boost the Dartmouth lead to three points.

“We really emphasized the fact that we needed to finish the entire game,” Melville said. “We were not going to be content with being up in the first half.”

Columbia tried twice to get a three-pointer but the shooters were off the mark both times, giving Dartmouth the victory. Columbia went on to beat Harvard, who the Big Green lost to in overtime on Jan. 26, on Sunday, emphasizing the significance of the win.

It was a completely different story in Ithaca on Sunday afternoon when Dartmouth faced Cornell (11-12, 3-3 Ivy). The journey did not start off well when Dartmouth’s bus got stuck in the snow and the game had to be moved from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon.

“We just did not show up for the game,” Maldunas said. “Having a day off in between games kind of screwed us up.”

The Big Green shot just 28.6 percent and struggled to keep up with Cornell the entire game, which ended in a 79-56 loss.

The Big Red set the tone of the game from the outset, starting with a 10-2 lead in the first few minutes featuring two triples. On the fourth Dartmouth turnover in the first six minutes of the game, the Big Red got a fast break layup, marking the first of 18 points Cornell would score on the break.

“Cornell was a tough matchup for us,” Boehm said. “They are much more athletic and aggressive on defense than we are used to.”

Dartmouth tried to retaliate with a shot by Maldunas and free throws by Jvonte Brooks ’15 and Melville, but the Big Green could not stand up to hot-shooting Cornell, who took a swift 29-12 lead with another 10-point run. Shooting at 63 percent during the opening half, it was no surprise that Cornell took a 45-23 lead into the break.

“They deserved to win this game,” Melville said.

The Big Green could not manage to get things started offensively in the second half either, letting Cornell’s lead waver between 21 and 27 points until the Big Red reached its biggest lead at 8:31 with a score of 64-35. Dartmouth fought back with a 9-1 run started by Melville with a three-point play and ended with another layup by Melville. A Mitola three-pointer and a Melville jumper cut the deficit down to 18, but that would be as close as the Big Green would get in their 79-56 defeat.

Dartmouth did manage to end the game with the edge in rebounding 40-34, however, but 18 Big Green turnovers that led to 24 Big Red points were the nail in the coffin for Dartmouth.

“We need to focus on our defense,” Maldunas said. “We played pretty well on the defensive end against Columbia, which led to better offensive possessions, but we could not stop Cornell. It is a lot harder to score when somebody scores on you.”

The Big Green returns home next weekend to face Princeton University on Friday and the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday. Both games will be played at 7 p.m. in Leede Arena.

Box Score (PDF)

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell's speed and athleticism proved too much for Dartmouth in a rare Sunday afternoon matinee, as the Big Red blocked 10 shots, stole 15 passes and zoomed up and down the court during a comfortable 79-56 win over the Big Green at Newman Arena. Cornell improved to 11-12 (3-3 Ivy), while Dartmouth slipped to 6-14 (2-4 Ivy).

Sophomore Shonn Miller and senior Errick Peck were dominant forces as Cornell forced 18 Dartmouth turnovers and allowed the Big Green to shoot just 29 percent overall. Miller had 15 points, six blocked shots, five steals and four rebounds, while Peck notched 11 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals. Junior Dominick Scelfo scored 15 points, grabbed four rebounds and had a pair of steals and freshman Nolan Cressler notched 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win. The Big Red outscored the Big Green 18-2 on the fastbreak, 36-16 in the lane and 24-8 off turnovers.

Dartmouth's Tyler Melville had a team-high 12 points, while Alex Mitola had 10 points. Jvonte Brooks just missed being the third double figure scorer with nine points and a game-high eight rebounds. The Big Green held a 40-34 edge on the glass, in large part due to its 16 offensive rebounds.

The game was over in the first six minutes, as Cornell launched out to a 12-2 lead that included five quick points by Peck and another quick find to Eitan Chemerinski after a Peck steal and look-ahead. The Big Green got back within five at 12-7, but Cressler hit a 3-pointer and then a Miller block led to a fastbreak bucket by Devin Cherry. Peck, who set a career-best in assists, found Miller underneath for a monster dunk and it was on for the Big Red.

Cornell used its athleticism to sprint ahead for easy buckets on offense and to block and bother shots in the lane while pressing the passing lanes. The Big Red led by as many as 24 after Peck's driving bucket with 2:15 left in the first half and wouldn't allow the visitors within 18 the rest of the way.

Miller had four steals and three blocks in the second half alone, helping Cornell limit Dartmouth to 32 percent shooting. He had a pair of monster dunks after halftime that kept the Blackout Newman Arena crowd excited, as they also counted out his blocked shots with each rejection.

The Big Red will hit the road again to vist Yale on Friday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. and Brown on Saturday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in key Ivy games. Cornell will head into the weekend in third place in the Ancient EIght standings at 3-3.

Coming off a big road win at Columbia on Friday night, Dartmouth struggled at Cornell on Sunday afternoon, shooting just 28.6 percent (16-of-56) as the host Big Red dealt the Big Green a 79-56 defeat at Newman Arena. Cornell (11-12, 3-3 Ivy) blocked 10 shots and stole the ball 15 times while four players scored in double figures to bounce back from a home loss to Harvard on Friday. Junior Tyler Melville scored 12 points to lead Dartmouth (6-14, 2-4 Ivy).

While the Big Red defense was shutting down Dartmouth, their offense clipped the nets at a 50.9 percent clip (29-of-57), including 45 percent (9-of-20) behind the arc. Shonn Miller was effective at both ends of the court, tying for the team lead with 15 points on offense, and providing six blocks and five steals on defense. Dominick Scelfo provided much of the long-range assault, canning 5-of-8 three-pointers for his 15 points. Nolan Cressler added 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting with a pair of three-pointers, plus tied Errick Peck for the rebounding lead with five boards. Peck chipped in 11 points as well as a team-best seven assists.

Melville posted his 12 points with three field goals and 6-of-7 at the line, and freshman Alex Mitola tallied 10 with a pair of three-pointers and dished out three assists.

Cornell set the tone from the outset, opening up a 10-2 lead by the first media timeout thanks in part to triples by Peck and Scelfo. The fourth Dartmouth turnover in the first six minutes of the game led to fastbreak layup, the first of 18 points scored by the Big Red on the break. The Big Green scored the next five points on a bucket by sophomore Gabas Maldunas, a free throw by Melville and two more foul shots by sophomore Jvonte Brooks.

A Cressler triple and a fastbreak layup by Devin Cherry gave Cornell a double-digit lead at 17-7, and less than two minutes later Scelfo popped another trey starting a 10-0 run to make it a 29-12 game. The Big Red never let up during the half and took a 45-23 lead into the break.

Cornell shot a sizzling 63.0 percent (17-of-27) during the opening stanza, not to mention 6-of-11 from long range. Dartmouth, meanwhile, managed just seven field goals at a 25 percent rate, but did convert 7-of-10 at the line.

Scelfo began the second half with his fourth three-pointer of the game, and the difference remained between 21 and 27 points until Miller laid one in with 8:31 to play for Cornell’s biggest lead of the afternoon, 64-35. Dartmouth then enjoyed its best stretch of the game with a 9-1 spurt over two minutes, started and ended by Melville with a three-point play and a tough layup.

A Melville jumper and a Mitola three-pointer cut the deficit down to 18 in each instance, but that would be as close as the Big Green would get.

Dartmouth did finish the game with the rebounding edge, 40-34, with 16 offensive rebounds, as Brooks and freshman Kevin Crescenziled the efforts on the boards with a eight and seven caroms, respectively. But its 18 turnovers led to 24 Big Red points, and Cornell outscored the Green in the paint, 36-16, largely due to the presence of Miller.

Dartmouth returns home this weekend to host Princeton on Friday evening and Penn on Saturday, both at 7 p.m. Cornell next travels to Yale for a Friday game at 7 p.m. before squaring off against Brown in Providence on Saturday at 6 p.m.

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