Saturday, December 28, 2013

News and Notes: Saturday Edition

Get all the information you need about Cornell's game at St. Peter's, Saturday, December 28, 2013, with The Cornell Basketball Blog's Game Preview CenterBelow, news and notes for Saturday...

Cornell men's basketball looks to end 2013 on a high note at Saint Peter's

ITHACA — The Cornell men’s basketball team will close the book — gladly, no doubt — on a rough 2013 calendar year when it takes on Saint Peter’s University today in Jersey City, N.J. Tip-off is slated for 2 p.m. (HITS 103.3 FM).

The Big Red (0-11) will be attempting to snap a record losing streak of 17 games, which began with a 79-71 home loss to Ivy League rival Pennsylvania on Feb. 22 last season. The loss streak eclipsed the previous school-record run of futility endured by the 1972-73 squad, coached by Tony Coma, which lost 16 in a row and wound up 4-22.

Coach Bill Courtney’s Big Red has gone 7-21 in the calendar year, and was 13-12 overall and 5-3 in the league before finishing last season with six consecutive losses.

Not helping the Red’s cause this year has been the loss of 6-foot-7 junior forward Shonn Miller, a first-team All-Ivy selection last year and the 2011-12 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. He missed the final four games of last season with a shoulder injury and is likely to miss the entire 2013-14 season after leading Cornell in scoring (11.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.8 rpg.) last season.

Sophomore guard Nolan Cressler leads the Red in scoring (16.3 ppg.), followed by freshman guard Robert Hatter (12.1 ppg.), junior guard Devin Cherry (9.5 ppg.) and senior forward Dwight Tarwater (7.6 ppg., 6.6 rebounds per game).

Cornell is being outscored by an average of 84.8 to 66.7, and is allowing opponents to shoot nearly 50 percent from the floor, including 42.4 percent from 3-point range.

The Peacocks (3-7) have dropped four of their past five games, with the lone win over that span an impressive 83-80 overtime win at Seton Hall. Its last game was a 66-56 loss at Hartford a week ago.

Junior forward Marvin Dominique (18.1 ppg.) leads the Peacocks in scoring and is shooting 49 percent from the floor; he’s also grabbing 9.9 rebounds per game.

Junior guard Desi Washington (13.3 ppg.) is second in scoring for a Saint Peter’s team that is averaging 66.1 points on 43 percent shooting, including 32 percent from beyond the arc.

Saint Peter’s defeated Cornell early last season, 68-64, in the only previous meeting between the schools.

In a scheduling oddity, the Big Red plays only four games in January — one each on the four Saturdays — beginning next weekend at St. Bonaventure. Cornell returns home to face Division III Oberlin College at 2 p.m. on Jan. 11, then begins Ivy League play with its annual home-and-home set against travel partner Columbia — at 7 p.m. on Jan. 18 in New York and at noon on Jan. 25 at Newman Arena.
GAME NOTES: The Cornell Big Red will continue their search for their first win of the campaign as they visit the Yanitelli Center for a non-conference tilt against the Saint Peter's Peacocks.
Cornell dropped to 0-11 last Sunday when it was defeated, 76-54, by Stony Brook, which was its sixth true road game. Coach Bill Courtney's team has struggled on both ends during its winless stretch to start the season and ranks last among Ivy League schools in both scoring offense (66.7 points per game) and scoring defense (84.8 ppg). All but two of the Big Red's losses have come by 10 points or more, including their last five.
Saint Peter's looked like a completely different team in mid-December when it survived its visit to the Prudential Center with an 83-80 overtime win over Seton Hall, but it quickly returned to its more usual unimpressive caliber of play last Sunday to suffer a 66-56 setback at Hartford. The Peacocks are now 3-7 overall and 0-2 in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference action with defeats at Canisius and Niagara. They have done a decent job on the defensive end as their allowed average of 70.1 ppg is second-best among MAAC schools, but they are posting only 66.1 ppg offensively.
Saint Peter's won the only previous meeting between the teams as it exited Newman Arena in Ithaca with a 68-64 decision. Cornell is 62-51 all-time against members of the MAAC.
Although the Big Red have struggled as a unit, sophomore guard Noah Cressler has managed to climb into third place in the Ivy League scoring title race by netting 16.3 points per game to go along with 4.2 rpg. Cressler's efficiency needs to improve as he is converting just under 40 percent of his field goal attempts and only 27.3 percent of his tries from behind the 3-point line. Robert Hatter is adding 12.1 points and 2.8 assists per tilt while Devin Cherry and Dwight Tarwater are both solid contributors as well. However, Cornell has not had a consistent fifth man to round out its rotation. Outside of their four leading scorers, all of the Big Red's players are clocking less than 18 minutes per game.
Saint Peter's is well below the .500 mark through its first 10 games despite the excellent play of junior forward Marvin Dominique, who registered his third double-double in his last four games with 11 points and 14 rebounds versus Hartford. The 6-foot-7 Fordham transfer is nearly averaging a double- double with 18.1 points and 9.9 boards per game. Although junior guard Desi Washington is chipping in 13.3 ppg, he is making just under 40 percent of his shots from the floor. No other Peacock is close to a double-digit scoring average. Saint Peter's is doing an excellent job on the glass as its rebounding defense (32.7 rpg) is tops in its conference.
The Big Red will be looking to end an eight-game road skid, a program record 17-game losing streak and avoid their first 0-12 start to a season in school history. Although SPU recently took down Seton Hall, it showed against Hartford that it very well could have been a fluke. The Peacocks will need their top two players to both perform well if they hope to deny Cornell its first triumph.
Cressler makes his mark
Plum grad Nolan Cressler, a sophomore on the Cornell men's basketball team, is named to the Pittsburgh Pro-Am Summer League all-star team. He is one of six players selected to the squad.
Pitt senior forward Talib Zanna helps PGT Trucking to the league title, and he is picked as the league MVP.
Cressler averages 23 points over seven league games for the P&W BMW team, which finishes the six-game regular season in first place with a 5-1 record. But the team falls in the semifinals.
  • Hammer and Rails notes the biggest Purdue sports stories of the year and writes:
Transfers, transfers, transfers - It certainly does not qualify as good news, but four players on last season's men's basketball roster left the program with eligibility remaining. Only one, Sandi Marcius, left as a graduate transfer, as he is playing his final season at DePaul. Anthony Johnson and Jacob Lawson are sitting this year out after moving on to Northern Illinois and Appalachian State, respectively. Finally, Donnie Hale surprised many by leaving just days before practice started. He is playing this year at Division II Bellarmine in Louisville.
All the movement did allow for two newcomers, as Errick Peck come on board from Cornell as a graduate transfer and Sterling Carter joined from Seattle in the same manner.
Smotherman's increased playing time has come at fifth-year senior transfer Errick Peck's expense. Peck started the first eight games before moving into an off-the-bench role. Against West Virginia he played just seven minutes, totaling three fouls, two turnovers, two rebounds and no points.
“Earlier I thought it was clear cut that Errick should start ahead of Basil,” Painter said. “Now, in the past two to three weeks, it's been clear cut Basil should start.”
Painter, like most coaches, wants competitive depth to fuel improvement. If you don't produce, somebody else will. In six of Peck's last seven games, he's scored five points or fewer. He has had five games of at least four rebounds in that stretch.
“There's really nothing to talk about,” Painter said. “Somebody has played better than you. Someone has brought us more energy. So I'll play somebody else. If that doesn't send a message, then they normally don't get the message.”
Painter said he has no problem playing Smotherman and Peck (who averages 5.2 points and 4.8 rebounds) at the same time.
“I'd like to see both play at a high level. If they do that, that will force my hand to get them in there at the same time.”
  • Cornell recruit, Riley Glassman scored 13 points and dished 4 assists on Friday.  See the Daily Herald for the recap.
Gonzaga (Washington D.C. ) is off to a poor start at 2-5 but is led by 6-7 senior forward Jordan Abdur-Ra’oof, who is a Cornell recruit, and 6-2 junior point guard Bryant Crawford, who has offers from UConn, Georgetown, Indiana and others.

Read more here:
Senior forward Wil Bathurst has led Olean in scoring in four of five games. The Cornell commit is averaging 25 points per game.
“Wil’s defined his game,” Anastasia said after the Huskies beat Silver Creek. “Last year, he was pretty much just a slasher. This year, he can shoot from the outside, he can slash, he has great court sense, knows where his teammates are and he has a really good feel for the game.”
  • Bathurst was named to the IAABO All Tournament Team after scoring 18 points in a championship win including clutch free throws with 7.1 seconds left.
Four Years After Its Wild Ride, Cornell Turns Back Into a Pumpkin
New York Times

In Cornell’s last men’s basketball game, at Stony Brook, Coach Bill Courtney often threw his arms up in frustration after a turnover and frequently flashed an exhausted smile when his team committed an imprudent foul.
By the time Jameel Warney of Stony Brook made a layup and free throw with 12 minutes 32 seconds remaining, giving the Seawolves a 55-36 lead, the front of Courtney’s dress shirt was fully untucked, completing the image of a coach watching his winless team.
Cornell lost Sunday, 76-54, dropping to 0-11 this season. Of the 351 Division I men’s basketball programs in the country, Cornell is the last team without a victory. And as Cornell searches for that first win, its coach is trying to forge a team identity.
“We don’t have a lot of issues with guys giving up or doubting what we’re trying to do — I feel very fortunate for that,” said Courtney, who was an assistant coach at Virginia Tech and a longtime assistant at George Mason under Jim Larranaga. “I see brighter days ahead for us. We just got to keep working at it.”
Just four seasons ago, Cornell was the darling of the N.C.A.A. tournament, the underdog from the Ivy League that hit 3-pointers with regularity and grinded its way to the program’s first appearance in the Round of 16.
That senior-laden team earned three consecutive Ivy League titles and N.C.A.A. tournament appearances, the most prominent run in Cornell history. Before 2008, the Big Red had qualified only two other times, in 1954 and 1988.
But Cornell has yet to finish with a winning record since 2010. The first two months of this season have exemplified their struggles. This is the first time a Cornell team has started a season 0-11. Dating to February of last season, the Big Red have lost 17 consecutive games, the most in program history.
In 2009-10, the Big Red played toe-to-toe with Kansas and Kentucky, were personified by the outside shooting of Ryan Wittman; the post presence of the 7-foot Jeff Foote, who played four N.B.A. games for New Orleans in 2012; and the dynamic point guard play of Louis Dale. Cornell has yet to solidify its own philosophy under Courtney, who was hired after Steve Donahue was lured to Boston College after the 2010 season.
“It’s tough to watch a little bit, but I know they’re a very young team, still kind of finding their groove,” said Foote, who is playing for the Springfield (Mass.) Armor of the N.B.A. Development League.
Stephen Steinlight, editor of the Cornell Basketball Blog, said Courtney has recruited more players who like to create off the dribble, with “less emphasis on skill and more emphasis on athleticism.” Among those who post frequently on the site’s forums, Steinlight said, “there were some doubts if a program could be built that way.” Recent forum threads have included “Has Bill Lost This Team?” and “When Will Rebuilding End?”
Courtney pointed to Harvard, which won or shared the last three Ivy League titles and is 10-1 this season, as proof that a faster style of play could succeed in the Ivy League.
Despite the success of the teams from 2008 to 2010, Cornell’s continued league dominance was unlikely. The 2010 class graduated eight seniors, four of them starters. Courtney is “a tremendous guy and coach,” Foote said, “but I knew there’d be a little bit of a down period.”
One roadblock to rebuilding has been injuries. Shonn Miller, who was a first team All-Ivy League selection last season, missed the end of 2012-13 with a shoulder injury and remains sidelined indefinitely.
Steinlight, who graduated from Cornell in 1998 and started the blog in 2007, said this team “has a lot more talent than what its win-loss record reflects,” but that their failures “can’t all be blamed on just Shonn Miller being unavailable this season.”
“There seems to be some type of — something missing,” said Steinlight, who added that he was a big supporter of Courtney. “Some type of chemistry issue, but I can’t point a finger whether it’s its players lacking in belief in the coach or lacking in belief in each other.”
Dwight Tarwater, a senior captain, disputed the notion that the team was not committed to its coach’s vision. 
 “It’s definitely hard because everybody’s got an opinion, but what coach has been really trying to tell us, it doesn’t really matter what everyone else says,” Tarwater said. “He’s really just done a great job of ingraining that in our minds.” 
There have been small signs of hope this season. In Cornell’s opening game at Syracuse, the Big Red led, 38-32, at halftime, but then lost, 82-60.
“Syracuse, we played great in the first half,” Courtney said. “I think you take from that some positive things and showing our guys how good we could possibly be. That’s where we want to strive to be more persistently.”
But there were also frustrating games against lesser teams. Cornell led Binghamton by 19 points with 13 minutes to play on Nov. 13 but lost by 10; led Siena by 10 points with 4:46 remaining on Nov. 22 but lost by one; and lost to a 1-7 St. Francis, Pa., team, 72-62, in Ithaca as the university welcomed back basketball alumni and honored some of its best teams.
Cornell will next try to end the skid on Saturday afternoon at St. Peter’s in Jersey City or at St. Bonaventure on Jan. 4. Cornell will play Division III Oberlin on Jan. 11, before starting the competitive Ivy League season.
“I’m very positive,” Courtney said. “I know we’re going to get there. It’s going to take us some time. We’ve been thrown off our path a little bit, but we’ll get on the right path soon enough. I don’t think anyone doubts that.”
There was optimism to be taken away from the 22-point loss at Stony Brook. The Seawolves’ lead ballooned to 69-39. With the game out of reach, Courtney said he thought his players responded and later gave their best defensive effort of the season.
And in those waning, mop-up minutes, when Courtney removed a player after a turnover or a foul, he did not yell. He would wrap his arms around the player and talk closely in his ear, passing along what went wrong and what should be done the next time. Then he would grin and go back to watching his fledgling team take its lumps as it struggles to return to a winning path.
  • Ivy Hoops Online ranks the Top 5 finishes in the Ivy for 2013 and notes as an honorable mention:
February 2, 2013: Cornell over Penn, 71-69. Galal Cancer’s bank shot in the closing seconds lifted the Big Red to a big win in the Palestra.
  • Cornell RPI Watch: The RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a measure of strength of schedule and how a team does against that schedule. It does not consider the margin of victory, but only whether or        not a team won and where the game was played (home/away/neutral court). The formula is 25% team     winning percentage (WP), 50% opponents' average winning percentage (OWP), and 25% opponents' opponents' average winning percentage (OOWP). (See: for a further explanation of the formula.) The RPI may be the most influential factor in NCAA Tournament seeding. Cornell's RPI rank as of December 28, 2013 is No. 334 out of 344 total Division I teams. While neither the Ken Pomeroy or the Sagarin Rankings (USA Today) are used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, the site ranks Cornell No. 342 in the nation, while the Sagarin Rankings (USA Today) have Cornell at No. 339. Both sites are predominantly used by fans and the media.
Visit The Cornell Basketball Blog's Community Forum and Message Board to interact with other fans of Cornell and Ivy League basketball. Membership is free! You may also follow us on Twitter.  Not a member of Twitter? See what The Cornell Basketball Blog is tweeting and retweeting each day by just visiting our Twitter Timeline.  The Cornell Basketball Blog received mention on NBC Sports' social media Must Follow College Hoops Directory.


Anonymous said...

Got to tell you, BC is getting all he can out of his players at the present. Believe we have lost multiple games from the lack of getting to the foul line.

Not even shooting 40% from three is going to overcome a lack of production from the free throw line especially when it is so dramatic.

Got to start going inside with passes down low or with the drive creating the bonus situation early in games and then convert at the line to win games.

Anonymous said...

everyone thinks this and says this privately with friends. I'm making it public -- it is time to fire the coach!!! What is keeping you Cornell Athletics from firing the coach?

Anonymous said...

Can an argument be made for D. Cherry to be Player of the Week

21 points 36% of total
100% from foul line 6 for 6
7 rebounds 21% of rebounds
3 assists 30% of assists
1 steal 25% of steals

While shooting 50% from the field

Old grad said...

Defense, defense, defense. We have people who can score, but you can't give up 80 points a game and expect to win. Too much switching and losing your man. We also need some rebounding. The big guys can't get off the floor (except for Dwight). I think Dayna Smith could do a better job coaching.

Anonymous said...

On Cherry you forgot to mention 9 turnovers. I don't think that is a player of the week in any league.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 7:23 -- You forgot the 9 turnovers (or 64% of the total turnovers)! So, no, an argument cannot be made.

Anonymous said...

Going to be tough for Devin Cherry to be named player of the week after committing 9 turnovers vs St Peters. But otherwise he played well. Who cares about Player of the week on an 0-12 team. Cornell needs A win - period. Going to be tough to get a W until Cornell gets some kind of production out of the 5 spot and someone to back up Dwight at the 4.

Credit to the players for continuing to battle despite horrible frustration. They have not quit.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone here realize that turnovers are killing us!!!
St. Peter's scored SIXTEEN points off of TO!!!
Devin had 9 of those.
Are you watching the same game I am????
We lost by 8 pts!! Anonymous, please do the math!!
Basketball is not just about scoring! You need to protect the ball!!!

TJ said...

Hey! Cornell hoops in the NY Times. No publicity is bad publicity, right? Right??

Anonymous said...

Anon : 4:13

What you stated is true regarding taking care of the ball, but a number of those TO's were offset by TO's that BigRed forced on St. Peter. The point differential was not even close to the point differential at the free throw line. Thats where this game was lost! The lack of being able to play Defense without Fouling when your personnel calls for a Zone but Man to Man is being played. Then the lack of getting foul calls because of the numerous number of threes being taken instead of getting the ball into the paint and creating some foul situations.