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ITHACA — On a night where six seniors were honored, the Cornell men’s basketball team continued to be plagued by many of the same demons: poor shooting and defensive lapses.
The Big Red (13-16, 5-7 Ivy League) dropped its fourth consecutive home game over the past two weekends with Saturday’s 79-70 loss to Yale. On Friday, Brown exploded offensively in an 84-65 romp.
Over the past two weekends, the Red struggled mightily on defense, allowing its opponents to shoot over 48.4 percent from the field in seven straight halves. The second half of the Yale loss provided some highlights. Cornell maintained a 20-7 edge in offensive rebounds and limited the Bulldogs to 37.5 percent shooting.
“The 20 offensive rebounds means that we missed a lot of shots to get those opportunities,” Cornell coach Bill Courtney said. “Part of it too is that we didn’t shoot the basketball particularly well. In the first half, we didn’t make shots. Nolan and Errick both struggled mightily in the first half, understanding that without Shonn, without Devin, without Johnny, those two guys have to make shots.”
Cressler and Peck went a combined 3-for-12 in the first half as the Bulldogs led 38-24. They combined to go 11-for-19 in the second half as the Red closed to within four points with 6:29 remaining in the game. But Yale closed out the win from the free-throw line with the Bulldogs going into the double bonus midway through the half. The Bulldogs converted 25 of 31 from the line, while the Red was 8 of 15.
“The other guys can’t carry us that much on the offensive end,” Courtney said. “On the defensive end, we didn’t have the intensity. We tried to do some different things to throw them off, and they made shots early.”
The absences of leading-scorer Shonn Miller (shoulder), second leading-scorer Johnathan Gray (personal reasons), and surging sophomore Devin Cherry (ankle) proved to be too much to overcome for the Red, who will look to close out the Ivy League schedule on a positive note with road games at Dartmouth and Harvard.
Despite the disappointing weekend, Courtney wanted to emphasize how much this senior class — Gray, Peck, Josh Figini, Eitan Chemerinski, Peter McMillan, and Miles Asafo-Adjei — has meant to the program.
“This has been a terrific group of young men,” Courtney said. “Obviously starting out with the Sweet 16 (in 2010), they got a little spoiled. I feel little bad that they had to deal with a rebuild a little bit. I thought that this would be the year that they would kind of be rewarded for going through that.”
With a depleted roster plagued by injury, the men’s basketball team dropped two more home games on senior weekend. On Friday against Brown (6-6, 12-14 Ivy League), the Red could not stifle the Bears’ hot shooting, falling 84-65. The following night, after honoring its seniors at midcourt, the squad struggled in an uphill battle and was unable to fight all the way back from Yale’s (6-6, 12-17) 17-point lead in the first half.
With only two road games left, the Red leaves Newman Arena for good with a disappointing 4-10 record at home. Perennially a solid team in Ithaca — Cornell was 10-3 at Newman last year — the Red has reversed its fortunes, recording twice as many wins on the road this season.
“I don’t think there’s anything particular we’ve done better on the road, sometimes it’s just how the matchups have turned out and the way the games have been played,” said senior forward Eitan Chemerinski.
Brown arrived in Ithaca coming off a narrow victory over Dartmouth — a team Cornell beat handily at home — but the Bears’ frontcourt stepped up against the Red on Friday. Forwards Rafael Maia and Cedric Kuakumensah combined for 20 rebounds. Seven of Maia’s 13 boards came on the offensive end, which gave the Bears countless second-chance opportunities.
“It’s always a goal to really come up with loose balls around the basket,” Chemerinski said. “I think when all five of us on the floor are crashing, that usually is when we are at our best, but I think we had to do a better job to keep those big guys off the glass.”
The absence of 6’7” sophomore forward Shonn Miller certainly contributed to the Red’s struggles in the paint. Miller leads the team in rebounding and has been the main force inside the key this season.
“It’s always tough when you’re missing guys, but I think we know that as a team, regardless of who can play, we have to do our best collectively to pick up for those guys,” Chemerinski said. “We have to play as much as a team as possible and still compete as hard as we can.”
The Red also played without sophomore Devin Cherry, and senior Johnny Gray was sidelined for the second weekend in a row. Both guards, the loss of Cherry and Gray was a significant hit to the backcourt, and Brown’s shooters were able to get more open looks from beyond the arc as a result.
“They did a good job executing their offense and they are at their best when they can pass the ball around and get open looks for three,” Chemerinski said. “We played best when we were speeding them up and disrupting the flow of their offense, not letting them sit back.”
The Bears connected on 13 three-pointers, six of them coming from the hands of Tucker Halpern — who scored 22 points in the game. Senior Matt Sullivan contributed three more triples.
The following night, Cornell honored its six seniors — Chemerinski, forward Errick Peck, forward Peter McMillan, guard Miles Asafo-Adjei, Gray, and forward Josh Figini — before the game. However, the ceremony could not light a fire under the Red, and the squad came out slow once again. With six minutes left in the first half, the squad trailed 31-14.
“They were hitting their shots and doing a good job attacking the basket and kicking the ball out for some threes,” Chemerinski said. “Later in the game, we were able to pick up our defensive intensity and that got us back in the game.”
Matt Townsend led the way for the Bulldogs with 19 points and Austin Morgan chipped in 15. The Red headed into the locker room down by 14, but was able to pick up the tempo in the second half. Eight minutes into the half, a three-pointer by freshman guard Nolan Cressler cut the lead to five. Yale’s Brandon Sharrod nailed a jumper on the other end, but Peck answered with another three. However, that was as close as the Red would get as the Bulldogs took control of the game and pulled away for a 79-70 win.
One highlight for the Red was the play of sophomore Deion Giddens, who played a season-high 24 minutes, scoring three points and grabbing a career-high nine boards — six of them offensive. Without Miller to look to, Giddens gave the Red another presence in the paint, also blocking three shots.
“[Deion] is a really good shot blocker and I think he’s really disruptive defensively; those are his strengths,” Chemerinski said. “I think it goes to show [that] everyone on our team is talented and everyone is ready to contribute when they go in the game.”
For the Red’s seniors, the weekend ended on a bittersweet note with two losses. However, the five seniors who were able to play all scored in their final game in front of Newman nation. Peck led the way with 19 points and Asafo-Adjei put up nine. McMillan drilled a three from the top of the key and Figini and Chemerinski both chipped in two points, while Chemerinski also grabbed nine boards.
“I feel very lucky to have been able to play here for four years,” Chemerinski said. “It’s been great to be part of this program. It’s definitely sad to have played my last game, but I look back and I’ve had a lot of great memories at Newman Arena.”
Entering this past weekend’s slate of games, the men’s basketball team knew that it had only the slightest chance at capturing the Ivy League crown. The Elis would have had to win the rest of their games this season, while Harvard would have to lose their remaining contests and Princeton would have to lose all but two of its last five games.
Despite these long odds, the Bulldogs received all the help they could have hoped for: Princeton beat Harvard on Friday, and while the Tigers won their second game of the weekend, the Crimson were upset by Penn on Saturday night.
But in a season riddled with inconsistency, the Elis could not help themselves. Yale (12–17, 6–6 Ivy) dropped its game on Friday night to Columbia (12–14, 4–8) in demoralizing fashion, 59–46, before rebounding to beat Cornell 79–70 with its best offensive performance of the conference season.
“I think we came out a little complacent against Columbia after beating them by 20 at home,” forward Matt Townsend ’15 said. “But I thought the guys responded really well on Saturday against Cornell. From the tip we started the game hungrier, executed our offense and jumped out to a big lead we held the entire way.”
The game between the Elis and the Lions at Levien Gym on Friday was truly a tale of two halves. Yale jumped out to a 26–21 lead in the first period, led by forward Matt Townsend’s ’15 eight points. No Columbia player scored more than five in the game’s opening stanza.
Columbia, however, emerged from the locker room like a different squad in the second half — perhaps out to avenge its season-worst defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs two weeks earlier. The Lions held the Bulldogs to 20 points in the second half while pouring in 38 of their own. Guard Maodo Lo, who scored a game-high 20 points, tallied 16 of those in the second half.
“I think that we ran a terrible offense, especially in the second half,” captain Sam Martin ’13 said. “We didn’t play together and when you don’t do that, you get bad shots … On the other end, they got good shots.”
Forward Matt Townsend ’15 added that the Bulldogs allowed the Lions to penetrate into the paint too often and struggled in the motion offense that they have been effective with recently.
Spurred by their lackluster offensive perfromance in the second half against Columbia, the Elis came out firing on all cylinders on Saturday night against Cornell. The Bulldogs dominated the Big Red from the outset, outscoring Cornell 38–25 in the first half.
“Starting the Cornell game, that [loss to Columbia] really motivated us,” Townsend said.
The team was again led by Townsend, who scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first half. Guard Nolan Cressler and forward Errick Peck also scored 19 points each for the Lions. The Elis shot 47.1 percent overall, ten points better than Cornell’s 37.1 shooting percentage.
“Winning on the road, especially way up at Cornell, is tough,” Townsend added. “I think there were a lot of good things we can take moving forwards as a team.”
The men’s basketball team’s season will end this weekend with two games at home in the John J. Lee Amphitheater. The Bulldogs will try to play the spoiler against Princeton (16–9, 9–2) on Friday before finishing their season by taking on Penn (8–20, 5–6) on Saturday.
Box Score (PDF)
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Yale jumped out to a 17-point lead in the first half and spoiled Cornell's Senior Day, holding off the Big Red for a 79-70 win on Saturday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red slipped to 13-16 (5-7 Ivy), while Yale improved to 12-17 (6-6 Ivy).
All five seniors that dressed started and scored, with Errick Peck ending his home career with a game-high 19 points. He was joined at 19 by freshman Nolan Cressler, who added six rebounds. Both players hit four 3-pointers as the Big Red connected on 10 as a team. The Big Red stayed in the game by limiting its turnovers (10) and hitting the offensive glass hard (20). In all, Cornell held a 42-33 edge on the backboards.
Senior Miles Asafo-Adjei scored nine points, grabbed four rebounds and four assists and sophomore backcourt mate Galal Cancer netted six points with four rebounds and four helpers. Cornell couldn't shake its 28 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes, cutting the 17-point deficit to as little as four with more than six minutes remaining.Yale answered with a layup and pulled back away to earn the win.
Head coach Bill Courtney reinserted his seniors with a little more than a minute left in the contest and watched Peter McMillan nail a 3-pointer from the top of the key and shortly afterwards pulled them all for a final time with 19 seconds left so they could earn a standing ovation.
Yale's Matt Townsend got 19 points and grabbed four boards to lead the Bulldogs, as four players reached double figures. Austin Morgan scored 15, Brandon Sherrod had 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots and Greg Kelley had 10.
For the second night in a row, sophomore Deion Giddens provided good energy off the bench with three points, a career-high nine rebounds and three blocks. He also had a steal while playing a career-best 24 minutes. He matched senior Eitan Chemerinski for the team lead with nine boards, as both grabbed six offensive rebounds.
Cornell, playing for the second straight night without three starters and its two leading scorers, watched as the Bulldogs jumped out to an 11-3 lead and never threatened in the second half, as every basket was seemingly answered by an easier Yale bucket. That changed after halftime, as Cornell limited the Bulldogs to 38 percent shooting and crawled back into the contest.
Cressler got the Big Red rolling with a layup on one end, the first of his seven straight points to open the second half. Giddens blocked three shots in a span of just 1:17 to change the complexion of the half, and all of a sudden easy baskets became harder to come by for the visitors. Cressler and Peck hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions to get back within 10 with 10 minutes to play, and the duo again went back-to-back to get within four (57-52) when the senior connected with 6:29 left. On the ensuing possession, Yale's Sam Martin found Matt Townsend for a layup to push it back to four. Shortly afterwards the Bulldogs went on an 11-2 run to seal the game away.
Cornell will close out the 2012-13 season on the road, where it is 4-1 in Ivy League play, beginning with a visit to Dartmouth on Friday, March 8 at 7 p.m. at Leede Arena.
ITHACA, N.Y. – Yale's offensive struggles lasted just one night. After shooting 31.1 percent from the field against Columbia on Friday, the Bulldogs responded in a big way. Yale executed near flawlessly in the first half Saturday against Cornell, built a 14-point lead and went on to an impressive 79-70 victory over the Big Red before 2,150 at Newman Arena.
"We had much better offensive flow tonight," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "We got back to doing what we have been doing."
Sophomores Matt Townsend and Brandon Sherrod both had career nights to lead the way. Townsend was 7-of-10 from the field and scored 19 points, while Sherrod added 13 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 24 minutes off the bench.
"Matt and Brandon really came up big for us," Jones said.
Yale shot 55.6 percent in the opening 20 minutes and had a 38-24 lead at the intermission.
"Coach [Jones] really emphasized after last night's game that our offense was stagnant," said Townsend, who scored 13 of his points in the first half. "We came out motivated to move and cut more. When our offense is flowing, we are tough to stop."
Townsend has played a big role in Yale's offensive improvement over the course of the season. In his last three games, he is averaging 14.7 points and shooting 65.4 percent from the field.
"Matt is relentless. He never stops working," Jones said. "He has gotten to the point where he is comfortable with what we are doing offensively."
Townsend and Sherrod had plenty of support. Austin Morgan finished with 15 points and Greg Kelley scored 10. Javier Duren added seven points, three rebounds and three assists.
Errick Peck and Nolan Cressler paced Cornell (13-16, 5-7 Ivy) with 19 points apiece.
The Bulldogs (12-17, 6-6 Ivy) will enter the final weekend in a tie with Brown for third place in the Ivy League.
Saturday's win was Yale's first in Newman Arena since 2004.
Despite the big halftime lead, there were some tense moments in the second half. Cressler hit a three-pointer that pulled the Big Red within 55-50 with eight minutes remaining. Sherrod answered with a bucket, but Peck hit a three-pointer to cut it to four.
Yale, though, scored the next four points. The Big Red got back within six, but Morgan's three-pointer with 3:30 left proved to be the dagger, giving the Bulldogs a nine-point lead. Before long, the advantage was 15 and Yale cruised home.
Morgan scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half.
NOTES: Yale was 6-of-11 (54.5 percent) from three-point range in the game… The Bulldogs outscored the Big Red 25-8 from the foul line… Cornell attempted 70 shots and shot just 37.1 percent… The Big Red grabbed 20 offensive rebounds but turned them into to only 15 second-chance points… Yale had 15 assists on its 24 field goals… The Bulldogs committed only nine turnovers… Yale closes out the regular season by hosting Princeton on Friday and Penn on Saturday. Tipoff on both nights is slated for 7 p.m… Yale's three seniors – Morgan, Michael Grace and Sam Martin -- will be honored before Saturday's game.