Monday, March 11, 2013

Game Recap: Cornell 56, Harvard 65

Abbreviated Recaps:
Box Score (PDF)
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Without a number of key players, the last three weekends of the Cornell men's basketball season has been a battle, and the Big Red fought right to the bitter end. With Harvard needing a home win in its home finale to clinch at least a share of an Ivy League title, it had a battle on its hands all night.
In the end, the Crimson celebrated an outright title on the Lavietes Pavilion floor, but it looked like a prizefighter that had gone 12 rounds with a hard-punching heavyweight. Cornell, missing its two leading scorers and four players who had started significant games this season, fell just one punch short of the knockout and Harvard closed out a 65-56 victory.
Seniors Miles Asafo-Adjei, Eitan Chemerinski and Errick Peck made huge contributions in a game where Cornell uncharacteristically tried to slow down the pace, combining for 37 points. Asafo-Adjei netted a career-high 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting and added four assists and just one turnover in a career-best 36 minutes. Peck scored 14 points, grabbed eight boards and assisted on three more baskets in his final game in a Cornell uniform. Chemerinski, who fouled out in the final moments, chipped in eight points and three boards and graduated as the school's career leader in field goal percentage. The contest also marked the final collegiate appearances for Josh Figini and Pete McMillan, who made short appearances in the game, as well as three-year letter winner Johnathan Gray.
The torch was passed in the final weekends to freshman Nolan Cressler, who scored 12 points and grabbed a career-best nine rebounds in 36 minutes of action. Deion Giddenschipped in three rebounds and two blocks in five minutes of court time and Dominick Scelfo and Dwight Tarwater combined for seven.
Harvard walked into the game looking for a share of the Ivy title, but before they left the arena, knew they would clinch the Ivy League's NCAA tournament bid. Within 30 minutes of the conclusion of the game, with Harvard's players and coaches watching the final moments of Princeton's 80-67 loss at Brown at courtside, they had their second straight outright Ivy title and third straight championship overall.
Laurent Rivard led the Crimson with 17 points, while Siyani Chambers notched 16 points with five assists. Wesley Saunders scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds, dished three assists and had two steals for Harvard, who played on seven players, with one earning just one minute of time.
Without a number of key cogs in the Big Red's pressure defense and transition offense, Cornell tried to slow down the Crimson, taking the air out of the ball on most possessions. While angering the sold-out Lavietes Pavilion crowd, the tactic worked for much of the first 20 minutes before a late Crimson run sent the home team into a 32-24 edge at the break.
The game was tied 23-23 with under five minutes to play in the half before the Crimson ended the half on a 9-1 run, including a 3-pointer by Rivard and a coast-to-coast layup by Chambers as the first half buzzer sounded.
The Crimson increased their lead to 16 midway through the second half, but much like the game in Ithaca a month ago, the Big Red made a final run. Asafo-Adjei, in his final game in a Big Red uniform, led the charge, A defensive-minded guard, he turned offensive in a hurry, beating the Crimson off the dribble time and time again. A layup and two drawn fouls led to three free throw makes. A Cressler steal on one end led to a layup by the senior on the other end, making it 57-50 with 4:28 remaining.
A steal and dunk by Peck, followed by two more free throws by the senior after he defended a Saunders miss and was fouled on the rebound, got Cornell within five (59-54). Saunders then missed a pair of free throws, but Asafo-Adjei rimmed out a driving layup, Harvard rebounded and started a parade to the free throw line. The home team nailed 6-of-8 shots from the line in the final 58 seconds to seal the win.
Cornell will return two starters, including All-Ivy candidate Shonn Miller, when the 2012-13 season commences in November.

The Cornell men’s basketball team finished up its season on the road this weekend with two losses, extending its losing streak to six to end the season. On Friday night, the Red (13-18, 5-9 Ivy League) lost to Dartmouth (9-19, 5-9), 76-62, and on Saturday, Harvard (19-9, 11-3) beat the Red, 65-56.
Injuries have been a big factor in the Red’s late-season collapse. The squad again played this weekend without three of its regular starters — sophomore forward Shonn Miller, senior guard Johnny Gray and sophomore guard Devin Cherry. It has been very difficult to replace them on both sides of the court, according to senior captain and point guard Miles Asafo-Adjei.
“Scoring is the thing we [miss the most]. It’s something all those guys do and the majority of our points come from those three,” Asafo-Adjei said. “Defensively, all three of those guys are our better defenders and defense is something we try to hang our hat on all year. To lose three of your better defenders, it’s tough; it’s tough to replace.”
The Red noticeably missed its starters against Dartmouth on defense, as the Green shot 52% from the field. Dartmouth was led by center Gabas Maldunas, who scored a career-high 28 points on 9-14 from the field and 10-12 from the line in just 29 minutes of work. He also grabbed eight rebounds, blocked four shots and had three assists.
“[Maldunas] is a very, very mobile big guy,” Asafo-Adjei explained. “He got most of his points off drives from the free throw line and that’s something that our big guys aren’t necessarily used to guarding.”
For the Red, senior forward Errick Peck did all he could to keep his team in the game, scoring a career-high 26 points and grabbing a team-high 7 rebounds.
“[Peck] played great; he knew he had to step up and was aggressive all game,” Asafo-Adjei said. “He was able to get some shots to fall early and that got him going and kept him hot for the rest of the game. He’s capable of doing that every night and it was fun to watch.”
Freshman guard Nolan Cressler also played well in the loss, scoring 14 points on three three-pointers while grabbing seven rebounds. Despite his youth, Cressler has been a consistent scoring option for the Red, especially in the last four games, where he has averaged 16.8 points per game. 
“[Cressler’s] such a good scorer and teams started to realize that as the season went on. They started game planning for him,” Asafo-Adjei said. “As the season continued, he found different ways to score. The Ivy League season was a great learning experience for him. He’s been a constant source of offense for us the entire year and he’s going to be a great player down the road.”
In the season finale against Harvard, the Crimson had a chance to secure the Ivy League’s NCAA bid and the excitement in the building was noticeable.
“There was a great energy in the building; everyone knew they had the chance to clinch the title,” Asafo-Adjei said. “They were playing with a lot of energy and the crowd was very loud. … The atmosphere was more hyped than usual.”
The Red did a good job defending forward Wesley Saunders — the leading scorer in the Ivy League at 16.6 points a game — as he shot just 3-11 from the field. However, he was 8-12 from the free throw line and still finished with 14 points.
“The biggest thing was just to try and keep Saunders away from the basket,” Asafo-Adjei said. “His entire game is trying to get close to the basket and get easy shots, so we just wanted to keep a man between him and the basket and make all his shots tough, which we were able to do. He was still able to score in double figures — he got to the line which helped out — but for the most part, we did a good job on him.”
Despite falling behind by 16 with just nine minutes to play, the Red put together a run and trailed by only five with two minutes to play. However, the injury-depleted Red just couldn’t keep up with the Ivy League champions. Asafo-Adjei played well in the loss, scoring 15 points, a season-high, on 6-8 from the field.
“With all our players injured, I was just trying to be a little more offensive minded the last couple of weekends,” Asafo-Adjei said. “I got some shots to go early, so I just tried to attack the whole night. I didn’t get to play much the night before against Dartmouth because I was in foul trouble, so I just wanted to help my team in any way possible.”
Christian Webster has found favor with the fickle deities of college basketball.
Harvard’s senior captain celebrated his team’s second consecutive outright Ivy League title and third in three years following last night’s 65-56 victory over Cornell at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson shared the Ivy crown with Princeton in 2011 but lost a tournament bid to the Tigers on a buzzer beater in a playoff game.
“This feeling is amazing, I feel like the basketball gods are on our side,” Webster said. “We are thrilled to be in this position and thankful.”
Harvard clinched the top spot when Brown knocked off Princeton, 80-67, last night in Providence. The Crimson (19-9, 11-3) secured their second straight trip to the NCAA tournament and Webster bolstered his legacy as the winningest player in school history. He was one of coach Tommy Amaker’s first recruits and has 89 victories in four years.
“Leaving this gym knowing we are going to the tournament with the championship outright, there’s no better way to leave this thing,” Webster said.
Harvard’s odds of repeating were diminished at the start of the season when seniors Brandyn Curry and Kyle Kasey voluntarily withdrew from school following an academic cheating scandal.
The Crimson persevered, but their ambitions took a hit when they were swept at Princeton and Penn last weekend to fall out of first place. Harvard closed out with wins over Columbia and Cornell while Princeton was eliminated by Yale and Brown.
“We believed from Day 1, we always talk about standards and that’s what we live by,” Webster said. “Coach always told us to believe even when we lost those guys.
“We came here for a reason and that’s to win the Ivy League championship. This is definitely the sweetest one of the three for me being a senior in my last go around.
“Knowing how devastating it was to lose those guys, they were my best friends, but we came back and I couldn’t ask for a better way.”
Harvard shot 47.5 percent from the floor with nine 3-pointers, 25 rebounds and 13 assists. Junior guard Laurent Rivard led the Crimson with 17 points. Freshman guard Siyani Chambers and forward Wesley Saunders combined for 30. Cornell shot 39.6 percent from the floor, hitting a paltry 3-of-17 from downtown but outscored Harvard 28-14 in the paint.
Harvard led by eight points at the break and quickly pushed it to 12 on a Saunders free throw and a 3-point shot by Chambers. The lead was pushed to 46-32 at the second officials’ timeout. Chambers and Webster hit from behind the arc. Steve Moundou-Missi followed with a drive to complete the surge.
Harvard maintained its double-digit lead into the third officials’ timeout on a trey by Rivard. Trailing by 15 points with less than six minutes to play, Cornell mounted an 8-0 run to cut the lead to seven. Senior guard Miles Asafo-Adjei (15) led the push with three free throws and a driving layup to make it 57-50 with 4:20 to play.
Cornell cut the lead to 59-54 on two free throws by Errick Peck with 2:03 on the clock. Saunders and Rivard put the game away with five free throws in the final 56 seconds.
After a regular season of breakouts and busts, comebacks and collapses, and departure and development, the Harvard men’s basketball team has finished on top.
With a 65-56 win over Cornell Saturday night at Lavietes Pavilion, the Crimson clinched its third consecutive Ivy title, and with some help from Brown—which beat Princeton, 80-67—Harvard is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
The Crimson (19-9, 11-3 Ivy) entered the night needing a win to clinch a share of the championship, and a Tigers loss in one of its two final games—Saturday at Brown or Tuesday at Penn—to win the title outright.
It got the help it needed on Saturday, when the Bears stunningly upset Princeton in Providence.
“Just how we drew it up,” co-captain Christian Webster joked. “I’m just thankful. This is crazy.”
Of course, before Harvard could worry about the rest of the league, it had to take care of business on its home court against the Big Red (13-18, 5-9).
And following a season of dramatic finishes, it was only fitting that the final contest came down to the wire.
After trailing by 14 with nine minutes to go in the second half, Cornell cut the Harvard lead to five with 1:35 remaining. But Miles Asajo-Adjei missed a jumper that would have made it a one-possession game, and sophomore Wesley Saunders, junior co-captain Laurent Rivard, and freshman Siyani Chambers knocked down six of eight free throws in the final moments to ice the championship and begin the celebration as the student section stormed the court.
“What a victory of our kids, and what a weekend for our program,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker said. “I can’t say enough how proud I am of our guys.”
The Crimson’s third championship was its most unexpected. After a season began with the departures of co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, the Crimson withstood its toughest non-conference schedule yet and maintained a lead through league play until last weekend, when a sweep by Princeton and Penn put Harvard a game back of the Tigers.
“We were obviously very dejected and down after that two-loss weekend,” Amaker said. “[But] we said that we have it play this out and see how it shakes out.”
It played out well for the Crimson, which took care of business at home this weekend, while the Tigers were shockingly swept to send the Crimson to the dance.
“We never gave up, and anything can happen in this league,” Rivard said.
On Saturday, Harvard went into the half up eight and stretched its lead to 13 when Chambers hit a long three from the top of the key. Errick Peck answered back with a layup for a Cornell, but Rivard—who led all scorers with 17 points—answered back with a left-wing long ball to push the advantage to 14.
From there, Cornell began chipping away and got within seven with 4:28 remaining on an Asafo-Adjai layup and then within five on two Peck free throws.
But Harvard, after nearly blowing a 21-point second-half lead in Ithaca on Feb. 8, was able to hang on Saturday night for its third straight title.
“For me it’s definitely the sweetest one out of the three,” said Webster, the winningest player in Harvard history. “I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The Crimson came out of the gate hot and opened up a 19-13 advantage midway through the first half after a longball by Rivard, who tied the program record for three-pointers in a season during the contest.
But Cornell—which stalled at the top of the key to run the play clock down on many of its first-half possessions—fought back to tie the game with a 6-0 run.
“I thought that in all honesty given the personnel problems that they have suffered recently that it was a terrific strategy,” Amaker said. “[Cornell coach Bill Courtney] was trying to shorten the game.”
After an Asafo-Adjai layup tied the game at 23, sophomore Steve Moundou-Missi knocked down two free throws, Saunders found the forward underneath for a reverse layup, and Rivard drilled a three from the right wing to put Harvard up seven.
Peck—the focus of a Big Red offense that was missing its best player, sophomore Shonn Miller, as well as starters Johnathan Gray and Devin Cherry—was fouled on a drive with 5.6 seconds remaining before the break. He went to the line and hit his first free throw, but missed the second, and Chambers went coast-to-coast against the Cornell defense for a layup at the buzzer to extend Harvard’s lead to eight.
“I think we ended the half well,” Amaker said. “That was a critical stretch of the game for us.”
After pulling away in the second, Harvard became the ninth team since the Ivy League’s inception in 1946 to win three straight league titles.
“We may not have had what we what we had [at the beginning of the season], but we believed that we had enough, and we stayed with that theme,” Amaker said. “To be here right now what a moment, I’m proud of our guys.”

Though the Harvard men’s basketball game was long over, a sizable crowd lingered at Lavietes Pavilion on Saturday night, huddled around various computer screens, eagerly awaiting updates on made and missed free throws taken 60 miles away. The Crimson had just closed out a victory over Cornell, 65-56, and with that, captured a share of the Ivy crown.
But a bigger story was in the works in Providence, R.I. Princeton—the lone team that held complete control over its Ancient Eight championship chances at the start of the weekend—was trailing a Brown team with a sub-.500 conference record and just a few minutes left to play.
Despite getting within five with as few as 40 seconds remaining after two free throws from guard TJ Bray, the Tigers were unable to close the gap any further, eventually falling to the Bears, 80-67.
And with that, less than an hour after securing at least a share of its third straight Ivy title, the Crimson became the second squad in the country to punch a ticket to the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“I just feel like the basketball gods have been on our sides the entire way,” co-captain Christian Webster said. “To know that we had two home games down the stretch and Princeton had three road games, as Coach said, we would have killed to get in this position, so we are so grateful.”
After an audible yell from the hallway, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker reentered the conference room on the second floor, beaming as he addressed his co-captains and then the press for the second time that evening.
“We’re thrilled about the fact that we are Ivy League champions outright,” Amaker said. “This obviously is a tough league, as anyone who has been a part of it will tell you. As challenging as this 14-game tournament really is, we talk about how challenging it is to win on the road.”
Amaker’s squad will play on college basketball’s biggest stage for the second time in as many years and the third time in program history. Last season, Harvard fell to Vanderbilt, 79-70, in the second round of tournament play at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. Two years ago, the Crimson narrowly missed out on NCAA Tournament play, as then-junior Doug Davis beat the buzzer with a jumper to push Princeton past the Crimson in a one-game playoff for the automatic bid.
After co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry withdrew from school before the start of the 2012-13 campaign, the preseason media poll tabbed Princeton as the favorite to claim this year’s Ivy title. But Harvard, despite dropping two games last weekend, was able to successfully defend its second championship in school history.
“We always talk about standards, and that is what we live by, not focusing on what other people say about us,” Webster said. “That’s something that we have done all season.... We lost those great guys and those great players but we came here for a reason and that’s to win Ivy League championships.”
Heading into the final weekend of Ancient Eight play, the Crimson sat half a game behind Princeton after suffering two consecutive road losses at the hands of the Tigers and Penn, respectively, to fall out of first place in the conference standings.
“We lost to a [Penn] team [and] we feel we could have won that game if we had played better," Rivard said. "We worked hard all [this] week like we worked hard all season and we had to take care of our business.”
With two games left to play, Harvard needed to sweep Cornell and Columbia this weekend and hope that the Tigers lost at least one game of their remaining three. Two Harvard wins paired with a single Princeton loss would have set the stage for a playoff to determine which team would claim the Ivy League’s automatic bid to the Big Dance.
But Yale and Brown did one better, as Princeton lost both of its games this weekend, handing the Crimson the outright title and opportunity to dance. After closing out the regular season with two wins at home, the Crimson awaits news of its next opponent on Selection Sunday.
“It’s an incredible testament to these two young men who were able to make this happen for our program,” Amaker said of Rivard and Webster. “We are thrilled to be playing in the NCAA Tournament.”
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's basketball team defeated Cornell, 65-56, as the Crimson won the program's third straight Ivy League title and earned a return trip to the NCAA Tournament before a sold out Lavietes Pavilion Saturday afternoon. Harvard will await the NCAA Selection Show on CBS Sunday March 17 at 6 p.m. The Crimson will learn its opponent and destination during the hour-long show. Laurent Rivard led the Crimson in scoring with 17 points, while Siyani Chambers added 16 points and five assists. Wesley Saunders scored in double figures for the 28th straight game with 14 points, as Harvard completes the regular season 19-9 overall and 11-3 in the Ivy League. Rivard tied the program's single-season 3-pointer record, draining his 74th of the season, knotting Kevin Rogus '05 (2003-04). Miles Asafo-Adjei paced Cornell (13-18, 5-9 Ivy) with 15 points, sinking 6-of-8 baskets. Harvard made 9-of-15 (.600) treys in the game and made 18-of-27 (.667) free throws. Rivard opened the scoring with a triple from the corner, plus a foul, 3-0, and then Smith added a bucket, as the Crimson went up, 5-0. Smith hit a layup as Harvard led, 10-7, but Cornell knotted it up, 11-11, with just over 12 minutes remaining in the frame. Christian Webster nailed a 3-pointer to make it 14-11, and then Wesley Saunders connected on a jumper to the left of the paint, 16-11. Rivard drained another triple, 19-13, but again the Big Red tied the score, 19-19. After Siyani Chambers made a long jump shot, 21-19, Saunders connected on a bucket to give Harvard a four-point edge. Cornell came back to tie the game again, 23-23, but Steve Moundou-Missi headed to the line and hit both, 25-23, with just under four minutes left in the first. Saunders found Moundou-Missi for a reverse layup under the hoop, 27-23, and then Rivard made his third trey, 30-23. In the final seconds of the half, Chambers hit an acrobatic layup to make it a 32-24 contest at the break. Rivard paced Harvard with nine points in the first, as Harvard went 4-of-8 (.500) from beyond the arc. In the second, Chambers connected on a trey, as Harvard went up by 10, 36-26, and then Saunders went to the charity stripe and made both, 38-26. With 14:30 to go, Chambers drained another triple, 41-28, and then Webster made another shot from beyond the arc, 44-32. Moments later, Chambers sent a bounce pass to Moundou-Missi , who finished with a nice move under the basket, 46-32. Chambers continued to shoot well, making another one, 49-34, with just over 10 minutes remaining. Less than a minute later, Rivard tied the Harvard single-season 3-pointer record with his 74th of the season, making it 52-38. With 7:38 to go, Saunders drew contact going up for a shot and hit both, as Harvard maintained a 14-point advantage, 56-42. After Cornell cut the Crimson lead to seven, 57-50, but Rivard headed to the line and made two free throws after being fouled shooting a jumper. With Harvard leading, 59-54, Saunders went to the charity stripe again and connected on both, making it a seven-point game. Rivard and Chambers would combine to hit 6-of-8 free throws at the line in the final 46 seconds to ice the game away and give the Crimson its third straight conference title; however, it wasn't until about 45 minutes after the buzzer sounded in Cambridge that Harvard booked its return to the NCAA Tournament, as Brown defeated Princeton to give Harvard sole possession of the Ivy League crown.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well, gotta give it to Coach Courtney for trying a new tact. It didn't work, but it's better than what happened against Dartmouth.