Sunday, January 19, 2014

Game Recaps: Columbia 71 Cornell 61

A season that has gotten off to a disappointing start for the men’s basketball team saw its first bright spot with a win over Oberlin College last Saturday.
After a drought of 19 straight losses from the end of the 2012-13 schedule into this year’s, the Red can breathe a collective sigh of relief as the burden of a zero in the win column has finally been lifted.
“Obviously it’s not been a great season for us so far,” said head coach Bill Courtney in a midseason teleconference. “We’ve had our ups and downs, mostly downs at the moment … we haven’t shot the ball particularly well, we didn’t guard well early in the season, and we turned the basketball over a little too much.”
However, the Red took advantage of a home matchup against a struggling Oberlin team, giving itself a much-needed confidence boost. Cornell shot 50 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc, more than doubling its three-point percentage from the loss to St. Bonaventure the weekend before.
Junior Ned Tomic led the way with a career-high 20 points and nine rebounds.
“It feels good. We just wanted to get that first win out of the way,” said sophomore guard Nolan Cressler. “Although it happened much later than we wanted to, it was good to get it out of the way before Ivy play.”
Cressler had 12 points on five-of-nine shooting in the game, and junior guard and captain Devin Cherry dished out a team-high seven assists.
“No matter what the win is, getting a win gives a little more pep in your step, makes the guys a little more lively the next practice and gets them to understanding that if we do things correctly, we can win basketball games,” Courtney said.
A team that relies heavily on the threes that open up off penetration in the paint, the Red has seen its numbers drop in that category this season. In two losses over break, against Stonybrook and St. Bonaventure, the Red shot less than 25 percent from beyond the arc. While Cornell is last in the Ivy League in three-point percentage, it has the third most attempts in the league with 347. According to Cressler, improving in that regard comes down to repetition.
“We know threes are a big part of our game, so some guys have been coming into the gym on their own to get up extra shots,” he said. “There’s no secret recipe for making shots, so we know that if we put the work in that the shots will fall.”
As a sophomore asked to take on a large portion of the scoring for the Red, Cressler has seen a significant spike in his minutes played and field goals attempted. He leads the team in scoring with 16.1 points per game and is second in the conference in that category. According to Cressler, though, he does not feel any additional pressure from the increased role in the offense.
“We have a lot of talented guys on this team who can show up and play well on any given night,” he said. “Which is good because if they are being aggressive, it opens up looks for me, and if I am being aggressive, it opens up looks for them.”
According to Courtney, Cressler’s performance this season is a sign of good things to come.
“He’s had very few downs and a lot of ups this year,” Courtney said. “His consistency has been a terrific force and we’re hoping he’ll continue that and even take another step.”
While the Red’s shooting percentage took a step forward against Oberlin, the squad was unable to repeat it on Saturday against Columbia in a 71-61 loss. With a clean slate at the start of Ivy League play, the Red headed to New York, trying to start a winning streak.
The 12-6 Lions jumped out to a seven-point lead less than eight minutes into the game, but the Red did not fold. With two minutes left in the first half, senior guard Jake Matthews nailed a three to tie the score at 24. At the break, the Lions led 29-26.
Columbia went on a 9-2 run to open the second half and was ahead by seventeen with less than four minutes to go. However, the Red clawed its way back once again, and with a minute thirty left, a jumper by Cressler cut Columbia’s lead to single digits. Columbia missed some key free throws down the stretch that gave the Red a fighting chance, but missed threes on consecutive possessions by Cherry and freshman guard Darryl Smith sealed the deal for the Red.
Cornell shot a disappointing 28 percent from beyond the arc, but it held Columbia — the conference’s top team in three-point percentage — to just 29 percent. The Red also forced the Lions to turn the ball over 12 times. According to Courtney, this is an area his team has progressed.
“I think our group has really shown some signs of improvement, in particular on the defensive end,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll shoot the ball a little bit better.”
The Red will look for revenge against Columbia next weekend on its home court. With only Ivy League games left in the season, Courtney said he hopes the steps his team has made over the last few weeks of practice will translate into some conference wins.
“I really hope we show the improvement on the court because our guys deserve it because they work that hard, and I’m just looking forward to playing the Ivy League season,” he said.

NEW YORK — Cornell battled back from a 18-point deficit late in the second half, cutting the lead to six in the final minute before falling, 71-61, to Columbia in the Ivy League men’s basketball opener for both teams Saturday night at Levien Gym.

Junior guard Devin Cherry scored 16 points and sophomore Nolan Cressler added 11 for the Big Red (1-14, 0-1 Ivy League), which was coming off its first victory of the season, last weekend against Division III Oberlin.

Alex Rosenberg led a quartet of double-figure scorers for the Lions (12-6, 1-0) with 20 points. Grant Mullins added 19, Maolo Lo had 12 and Isaac Cohen had 11.

Columbia led 29-26 at halftime but quickly extended its advantage with a 16-4 run to open the second half. A Mullins layup gave Columbia its largest lead, 58-40, with 6:01 to play before the Big Red mounted a furious comeback.

A 14-5 run made it a nine-point game with 2:04 left, a Cressler jumped cutting the deficit to single-digits. A Dominick Scelfo free throw made it 67-61 with 50 seconds to play, but the Lions hit four of six free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.The teams will meet again at noon next Saturday in Ithaca.

One win. No losses.

At this point that’s all that really matters for Columbia. After the Lions went 11-6 in non-conference play they opened Ivy League play at Levien Gymnasium on Saturday against Cornell. The Big Red came in winless against Division I competition and while Columbia led by as many as 18 points, the final few minutes were a little more harrowing than necessary.

Still, Columbia knocked down its free throws and finished off a 71-61 victory.

The atmosphere at Levien changes the moment Ivy League play begins. Students are on their way back to campus and the stands were full. But there was an air of expectation in the air. This was a game the Lions were supposed win with ease – or at least that was the opinion of outside observers. For the coaches and players it was a different matter entirely.

“We love having our fans out there. It obviously helps,” Alex Rosenberg said. “Before this game as far as we were concerned Cornell was 0-0. Nothing else mattered.”

In the first half Cornell looked game for a competitive opener. Led by freshman David Onuorah the Big Red crashed the offensive glass and trailed by only three points at the break. Even though Columbia beat Cornell on a number of backdoor cuts, the Lions didn’t knock down nearly as many threes, which kept Bill Courtney’s team in the game.

That all changed after halftime. The Lions attacked the basket early and often during the second half. Rosenberg finished with a game-high 20 points and Grant Mullins added 19, including 11-13 from the free throw line. A Mullins layup pushed the lead to 18 points with 6:01 remaining, but Cornell wasn’t done.

The Big Red battled back. Nolan Cressler didn’t hit a shot from the field until 3:37 remained, but scored 10 points in a minute and thirty seconds to cut the Columbia lead to nine points with 2:04 remaining.

Cornell though couldn’t finish the comeback. The Lions knocked down 26 of 31 free throw attempts (84%) for the game and calm shooting from the line helped Kyle Smith’s team open Ivy play with a victory. While the Cornell press harassed and upended Columbia’s rhythm late in the game, the Lions didn’t fold. A few turnovers hurt late, but weren’t enough to change the outcome.

“I thought we played really well except the last four minutes,” Smith said. “They made a little run and we made a few mental errors.”

Another bright spot to build on was the play of Isaac Cohen. He finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists in 34 minutes of play. Those last four minutes give Columbia something to fix this week as the Lions get ready for round two of the league opening home-and-home. It’s also the first of five consecutive Ivy League road games for the Lions.

At least for now though it has to be comforting that the white and blue are 1-0.

Box Score

Game Highlights

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- After three minutes, it looked like heavily-favored Columbia was going to run away from Cornell in the Ivy League men's basketball opener for both teams.

But Cornell scratched and clawed, playing its best defense of the season, and never let the Lions break it open. Columbia eventually won 71-61 on Saturday evening at Levien Gymnasium, but only after some tense final moments.

Junior Devin Cherry scored 16 points to lead three double figure scorers, while freshman Darryl Smith had 12 points and five rebounds and sophomore Nolan Cressler chipped in 11 before becoming one of three backcourt players to foul out. Senior Jake Matthews, who also fouled out, had a season-high seven points off the bench.

Columbia's Alex Rosenberg had a game-high 20 points, while Grant Mullins scored 19. Maodo Lo scored 12 and Isaac Cohen notched 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists to lead the Lions. Columbia shot 48 percent from the floor, but turned the ball over 17 times.

Columbia, the Ivy League's top 3-point shooting team, hit three from beyond the arc in the first two and a half minutes, but would only connect for two more over the final 37. Though it shot 55 percent as a team in the first half, it was clearly Cornell's defensive energy that stood out. Despite playing the final 10 minutes without leading scorer Nolan Cressler, who went out of the game with two fouls, Cornell trailed just 29-26 at the break.

The Big Red freshman foursome of Robert Hatter, David Onuorah, Darryl Smith and Desmond Fleming was largely responsible for the run that got Cornell right back in it after trailing by seven points early. An Onuorah dunk on a feed from Smith started the run, followed by a putback by the rookie post. Cornell tie the game at 21-21 in a 3-pointer by Cherry and again at 24-24 a minute later when Matthews hit one.

Columbia took control early in the second half and led by as many as 18 with six minutes to play in the game and was still up 17 with 3:42 left, but Cornell came roaring back.

The rally started innocently enough with a Cressler 3-pointer, then two free throws, another trey and a pull-up jumper. Cressler's personal 10-2 run got the visitors within 63-54 with two minutes remaining. A 3-pointer by Matthews and a conventional three-point play by Cherry got the Big Red back to 67-60, and after a steal, senior Dominick Scelfo was fouled shooting from beyond the arc. Scelfo made one free throw to make it 67-61, and Cornell would get no closer.

Cornell and Columbia will square off again on Saturday, Jan. 25 at 12 p.m. at Newman Arena.

 On Saturday night, a packed home gym witnessed the Lions’ (12-6, 1-0 Ivy) first Ivy victory of the season over Cornell (1-14, 0-1 Ivy).
Junior forward Alex Rosenberg led the way for Columbia, putting up 20 points.
The first half was a tightly contested affair, with Columbia leading Cornell 29-26 at halftime.
The Lions managed to hold the lead for most of the half, though Cornell was never far behind. In front of a raucous home crowd, Rosenberg headed up the Lions’ offense with 13 points. Columbia pulled in a total of 15 rebounds, five of which came on offense.
While the Light Blue pulled ahead at times throughout the half, the last five minutes saw Cornell close the gap, sometimes tying the game.
But in the final minute of the half, sophomore guard Isaac Cohen was able to grab a rebound and get the ball to fellow sophomore guard Maodo Lo, who hit a layup as Columbia closed out the first period with a narrow lead.
Columbia started off the second half quickly, with five unanswered points in the first two minutes of play. The Lions pulled ahead to 38-28, and then 41-30, as sophomore guard Grant Mullins sunk a three.
Columbia continued to play aggressively on offense, beginning to put some distance between itself and the Big Red. Leading 49-33 eight minutes into the second half, Columbia was able to maintain a double-digit lead for much of the second 20 minutes. A nice steal by Mullins gave Lo the chance to score, putting Columbia ahead 56-40.
Columbia’s second-half dominance appeared to frustrate Cornell, as the Big Red's play became increasingly sloppy. Cornell guard Robert Hatter picked up his fifth personal foul with 4:08 to go, making him one of three members of Cornell’s backcourt who would end up fouling out. However, Cornell’s increasingly aggressive play allowed the visitors to pull within nine, 63-54, with under two minutes to play.
A three by Cornell guard Jake Matthews cut Columbia’s lead even further, as the Lions’ lead shrunk to eight with 1:21 to play. With a minute left, the Lions were ahead by a mere seven, having seen their lead diminish.
But two missed free throws by the Big Red helped Columbia stay ahead and allowed the Light Blue to close out a 71-61 victory.

Watch Replay
Ivy League Digital Network
NEW YORK – Columbia head coach Kyle Smith said earlier in the week Ivy League wins were “like gold.” The Lions’ 71-61 victory over Cornell on Saturday night may not have been pretty, but Smith and his team surely will not give it back.

Columbia led by as many as 18 points in the second half, but the Big Red refused to go quietly and pulled within seven points with just over a minute remaining. The Lions were able make enough plays down the stretch to win their Ivy League debut and improve to 12-6 on the season.

Alex Rosenberg was superb once again, scoring a game-high 20 points on 7-of-13 shooting. Isaac Cohen played a strong all-around game with 10 points, eight boards and five assists. Grant Mullins added 18 points, knocking down 11-of-13 from the foul line.

Columbia did what they do best to start the game, knocking down 3-of-4 from downtown to take a 9-4 early lead. After the Big Red (1-14, 0-1) pulled within one, the Lions brought the advantage up to 15-8 after a reverse layup by Isaac Cohen with 12:26 left in the half.

Despite shooting the ball well and playing strong defense, Columbia’s eight early turnovers kept Cornell in the game and Devin Cherry tied the game, 21-21, on an and-one play with 2:59 remaining in the frame.

Rosenberg answered with an old-fashioned 3-point play of his own to put the score back in favor of the Lions. A few moments later, Maodo Lo’s transition layup made it 29-26 with 24 seconds left, a lead Columbia would take into the locker room.

The Lions started the second half on a 5-0 run, spearheaded by the spirited play of Cory Osetkowski, in the first 1:45. Osetkowski scored three points and grabbed four rebounds in the spurt, pushing the advantage to 34-26.

Meiko Lyles capped an 8-2 spurt with a block on the defensive end and trailed the play to get an open look from the top of the key to give Columbia a 45-30 lead at the 14:25 mark. The Lions remained in control and Mullins gave Columbia its largest lead of the game, 48-40, with 6:01 to go.

Cornell methodically chipped away at the deficit, using its full court pressure, and trimmed the deficit to 63-54 at the 2:04 juncture. Just under a minute later, another Cherry 3-point play made it 67-60. However, the Lions knocked down 8-of-10 from the charity stripe to preserve the victory.

Columbia took better care of the ball in the second half, committing just four turnovers in the final 20 minutes, and outshot (47.6 percent – 39.6 percent) and outrebounded (32-24) Cornell. After the blistering start from long range, the Lions only hit on 5-of-17 for the game.

Cherry led the Big Red with 16 points.

The Lions will complete their home-and-home series with Cornell next Saturday, Jan. 25 in Ithaca, N.Y. Tip-off is slated for noon on the Ivy League Digital Network.

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