Sunday, February 16, 2014

Game Recaps: Harvard 67 Cornell 44

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ITHACA — Brandyn Curry scored 14 points with five steals as Harvard pounded Cornell 67-44 on Saturday night to reach 20 wins for the fifth straight season.

The Crimson (20-4, 7-1 Ivy) are the first Ivy League team in a generation to reach that plateau since Penn's league-record six times (1970-75).

Harvard's balanced attack featured four players in double figures - Laurent Rivard 12 points, Wesley Saunders 11 and Steve Moundou-Missi 10 - and was a potent 60 percent from the floor (27-45). With 10 steals and a block, Harvard forced 16 turnovers.

Big Red (2-20, 1-7) was led by Nolan Cressler's 17 points. Cornell went to the free-throw line just five times, making three.

Rivard opened the game with a 3-pointer in a matter of seconds and Harvard never trailed, reaching double-digit leads with a Curry basket a little more than 12 minutes in.

Box Score I Box Score (PDF) I Game Highlights

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Harvard shot 64 percent from the floor in the first half and 60 percent overall to remain atop the Ivy League standings with a 67-44 victory over Cornell on Saturday evening at Newman Arena. The Crimson improved to 20-4 (7-1 Ivy), while the Big Red dropped to 2-20 (1-7 Ivy).

Big Red sophomore Nolan Cressler hit five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 17 points, but was the lone Cornell player in double figures. Devin Cherry added seven points, seven assists and six rebounds and Darryl Smith had four points, five rebounds and two assists. Cornell shot just 37 percent overall and from 3-point range and were sent to the foul line just five times in a game that featured just 21 total fouls.

Four players reached double figures for the Crimson, with Brandyn Curry leading the way with 14 points, three assists and five steals. Laurent Rivard hit four 3-pointers for his 12 points, while Wesley Saunders has 11 points and Steve Moundou-Missi notched 10.

Harvard never trailed in the game, opening the contest with a Rivard 3-pointer just 13 seconds in. The Big Red would never find the equalizer. The Crimson extended the lead out to 16 with five minutes remaining before halftime before Cornell was able to go on an 8-0 spurt that featured five points by Cherry, who also assisted on a Cressler 3-pointer to get the home team back within eight. Consecutive 3-pointers by Rivard and Chambers to end the half sent the Crimson into the locker room with a 38-24 edge.

The closest Cornell was able to get within was 11 points early in the second half after a thunderous putback dunk by David Onuorah, the second of his consecutive baskets, and a 3-pointer by Cressler on a feed from Cherry, made it 42-31 three minutes in. Harvard cruised in the final five minutes, putting the home team away for good by holding Cornell to three points over a stretch of nearly seven minutes to extend the lead to 20 (59-39) with 4:39 remaining.

Cornell returns to action on Friday, Feb. 21 when it plays host to Yale at 7 p.m. at Newman Arena.

ITHACA, N.Y. — When Brandyn Curry walked into the gym last Monday, he had every reason to expect a typical practice. But Harvard coach Tommy Amaker knew his team needed something different.
The Crimson were coming off their first loss in the Ivy League and Amaker could look at his players and see the cumulative toll the season had taken.
“It’s natural for them to feel sort of a mental fatigue as well, not just physical,” Amaker said. “The season can be long. I was just trying to make them aware that we understand that it can be a grind.”
So instead of an ordinary practice, Amaker turned Monday’s session into a shootaround.
Then he told his team to take a day to get away from the game.
He didn’t want them to come in for individual work. He didn’t want anyone sneaking into Lavietes Pavilion trying to get extra shots up. He didn’t want them to touch a basketball.
“He thought that we looked a little tired the past weekend,” Curry said. “He made sure nobody was in the gym.”
For Curry, that was a lot to ask. Not just because he is a gym rat, but because an ankle injury had limited him to only 14 games to that point. He felt fresh.
“It was kind of tough,” Curry said. “I had the whole month off, so I feel good with energy.”
But after Harvard finished its first true Ivy League road trip with a 67-44 win over Cornell on Saturday — which followed Friday’s double-overtime victory over Columbia — Curry knew his team was better for it.
“I think it was a good call by him,” Curry said. “We came back, had great practices Wednesday and Thursday and we felt really, really good coming into this weekend. I think guys knew that they needed to get away from it.”
Between the ironman match with Columbia and the overnight bus ride to Ithaca, it would have been easy to wonder how much Harvard would have left for Cornell.
Amaker knew he didn’t have to worry.
“I really felt that we were prepared coming into this weekend with taking care of the fatigue factor,” Amaker said. “I thought going into last weekend, I felt like we had a little bit of a tired team. We certainly tried to address that in going lighter and being a little bit different in our practice this week.
“We made them aware after [Friday] night’s game that we’ve already addressed the tired thing. So we’re not going up to Ithaca with any thoughts of us being tired even though we had to do double overtime. That wasn’t even going to be a thought in our minds.”
The Crimson upped their record to 20-4 (7-1 in the Ivy), making them the first Ivy League team since Penn in the early 1970s to post five straight 20-win seasons.
Out of the gates, it was hard to tell which team was supposed to be mentally and physically drained.
While Harvard was rushing out to an 18-9 lead on 7-of-14 shooting, Cornell (2-20, 1-7) was stuck in neutral, coming up empty on 11 of its first 15 shots.
By the half, Harvard had thrown Cornell into a 38-24 hole, and the lead stretched out to 18 early in the second half when Kyle Casey cut backdoor and threw down a two-handed flush off of an alley-oop lob from Siyani Chambers.
Curry came off the bench and scored 14 points, igniting a Crimson offense that shot 60 percent from the field, the second-highest percentage under Amaker.
“Brandyn is just stepping forward for us,” Amaker said. “He’s doing things that a senior guard should do. I think when you watch, there’s a confidence factor that he brings.”
At the same time, Harvard held Cornell to a season-low 44 points, the fewest points Harvard has allowed to an Ivy League opponent this season.
“Defense is our calling card,” Curry said. “We pride ourselves on being a defensive team and every time we go into a game, the first thing that we focus on is defense. So we feel like no matter what — if our shots are not falling — our defense should never waver.”
With their 20-game win streak at Lavietes snapped by Yale last weekend, the Crimson were in the position of having to bounce back on the road. Back-to-back wins kept them tied atop the Ivy with Yale, which picked up victories over Penn and Princeton.
“It feels good,” Curry said. “Definitely after losing a tough one at home we were talking about regrouping and responding.”
They welcomed the chance to do it away from their own gym, especially knowing they had their legs under them.
“It’s not home,” Curry said. “It’s an uncomfortable situation. We felt like our backs were against the wall after our loss, and it was a really good test for our team.”

On Friday night, it took about 49 minutes of game time for the Harvard men’s basketball team (20-4, 7-1 Ivy) to seal its victory over Columbia (15-10, 4-4). On Saturday night against Cornell (2-20, 1-7) it took 17 minutes to lock away an eventual 67-44 victory.
With 3:08 remaining in the first half, a quick score by senior Kyle Casey gave the Crimson men’s basketball team a double-digit lead that it would not relinquish. While it took over two and a half hours for the final buzzer to ring on Friday, the contest in Ithaca spanned only an hour and change.
And, while Friday night’s matchup came down to free throws, a clutch three-pointer, and a referee’s whistle, the outcome of Saturday’s game was settled before nine p.m.
“[We] made sure we were going up to Ithaca without any thoughts of us being fatigued or tired,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “It wasn’t going to be a thought in our minds. We made sure we talked to them this week [about how] it is natural for them to feel mental fatigue, as well…. We thought they wrapped their heads around it well.”
On a night where mental strength was key, the Crimson turned to co-captain Brandyn Curry to lead the way. The veteran made his first jump shot of the night less than five minutes into the contest and didn’t look back. He finished the game with a team-high 14 points, notching five assists—one more than the entire Cornell team.
Harvard broke away late in the first half, going on a 14-6 run to take command. The spurt was started by none other than Curry.
After the Big Red’s Jake Matthews missed a shot from deep, Casey grabbed the board and threw the outlet pass to junior wing Wesley Saunders, who pushed the ball ahead to sophomore Agunwa Okolie. Okolie gave the rock right back to Saunders, who sent it to Curry in the right corner. Curry wasted no time, knocking down the three to extend Harvard’s lead to eight.
One Cornell free throw later, Curry ran a give-and-go with sophomore point guard Siyani Chambers, with Curry finishing the play on a two-dribble floater from the right baseline. Curry was up to nine points—Cornell was at 10.
“Brandyn is stepping forward for us and he is doing things that a senior guard must do,” Amaker said. “There is a confidence factor that he brings. He is playing an all around-game where he is making shots, he is driving, he is also defending. Brandyn is being Brandyn.”
And so it continued. Despite a 6-0 run from Cornell to cut the lead to 10, 28-18, back-to-back layups from Casey and Saunders, followed by consecutive three-pointers from co-captain Laurent Rivard and Chambers, gave the Crimson a 14-point lead heading into intermission.
Just as it only took a few minutes for the Crimson to jump out to a dominant lead in the first half, so it only took 1:12 of the second period for Harvard to complete its trademark alley-oop, putting the game away with almost an entire half to play.
Following a Rivard rebound, Chambers took the ball on the left wing, waiting for a cut from Casey. On cue, Casey beat his man backdoor, streaked to the basket, and converted the alley-oop pass to give the Crimson its biggest lead of the night at 18. The dunk was the 94th of Casey’s collegiate career.
The Big Red would not come much closer the rest of the way, despite a solid stat line from guard Nolan Cressler. The sophomore had 17 points, sinking three pointers at a 71.4 clip on the night. Overall, however, he shot only 6-of-13 from the field.
“I thought we played really well defensively,” Amaker said. “You can see that with the numbers and we had good balance…. [Cressler] is a good player, he makes difficult shots and gets threes in transition. Those are the players we have to lock into.”
In addition to solid shooting efforts from its starters, Okolie had an efficient performance off the Crimson bench. At the 10:32 mark of the second period, the sophomore grabbed a loose ball on the right side of the paint. With the shot clock running down, Okolie put up a rainbow fadeaway jumper, which swished into the basket as the possession clock hit one.
Three minutes later, a mistake by Big Red center David Onuorah led to a Harvard fastbreak. Curry passed the ball ahead to Rivard, and the rock proceeded to swing from Rivard to Saunders, back to Curry, and then to junior forward Steve Moundou-Missi, who lobbed the ball across the paint to Okolie. Okolie caught the ball, gathered himself, and stuffed it home.
Overall, Okolie went 3-of-3 from the floor, one of five Crimson players to shoot at least 50 percent on the night, two of whom were off the bench.
“We thought coming into this weekend that we needed to go back to what made us good [in previous weekends]…and that was playing different bodies and different guys, and using our bench and our balance,” Amaker said. “We need [our bench] guys to play for us…[We need them to be] healthy and contributing off the bench for us. They did very well tonight.”

ITHACA, N.Y. – The Harvard men's basketball team earned its 20th win of the season Saturday night, knocking off Cornell to complete the weekend sweep, 67-44.
Harvard improves to 20-4 overall and 7-1 against the Ivy League with the win, and remains tied with Yale atop the conference standings after the Bulldogs defeated Princeton in overtime, 66-65. The Crimson has now won at least 20 games in five straight seasons, becoming the first Ivy League program to post five straight 20-win seasons since Penn did so a record six times from 1970-75.
Harvard had four players in double-digits for a second straight night led by Brandyn Curry's 14 points. The senior also dished out three assists and matched his career-high with five steals on the defensive end. Laurent Rivard, meanwhile, notched 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from behind-the-arc  to go with four boards and two assists.
Wesley Saunders and Steve Moundou-Missi totaled 11 points and 10 points, respectively, with Saunders also chipping in three assists. As a team the Crimson shot 58.7 percent (27-46) from the field, the squad's second-highest percentage of the year, and was 8-of-16 from three.
Cornell (2-20, 1-7 Ivy League) was paced by Nolan Cressler's 17 points. The Big Red's 44 points scored were the second fewest by a Harvard opponent this season, and marked the fifth time this year an opponent has scored fewer than 50.
Rivard opened the scoring with a corner three and Saunders followed with a layup in transition for a 5-2 margin. Harvard used baskets by Kyle Casey, Saunders and Curry to extend the lead to 11-4, and maintained the seven-point spread with a three-pointer from Siyani Chambers, 14-7. Curry moved the score to 17-9 with a three of his own, then gave the Crimson its first double-digit advantage, 20-10, with a breakaway layup off a steal.
Moundou-Missi came away with a steal on the next trip down the court and was rewarded in transition with an easy bucket. On the ensuing possession, another Curry steal led to a Moundou-Missi hook shot for a 24-10 lead. Two additional baskets by Moundou-Missi and Curry moved the score to 28-12, but eight straight points by the Big Red made it a 28-20 game with under 4:00 remaining in the half.
Casey made an acrobatic play on a lob from Saunders to go back on top by 10, 30-20, and Saunders drove the baseline for a 32-20 edge. Rivard added his second triple of the frame, and after a three-ball by Chambers the Crimson took a 38-24 margin into the break.
Harvard shot 64.0 percent (16-25) in the half while holding Cornell to a 37.5 percent (9-24) clip, and was 5-of-11 from beyond-the-arc. Curry led all scorers with nine points, as Chambers, Moundou-Missi, Rivard and Saunders added six apiece.
Moundou-Missi began the second half with a basket down low before a thunderous slam by Casey pushed the score to 42-24. Cornell responded with seven unanswered points to pull within 42-31, but a Saunders drive ended the Big Red run. A Curry layup made it a 47-31 game, and Agunwa Okolie beat the shot clock with a high arching shot for a 52-36 advantage.
Harvard kept the pressure on with a Curry triple, and a pair of free throw from Moundou-Missi gave the Crimson it's first 20-point lead, 59-39, with 4:39 to play. Rivard added a pair of three-pointers down the stretch, and after a spinning drive from Okolie, Harvard walked away with the 67-44 victory.
Game Notes: Harvard and Yale remain tied atop the Ivy League standings with 7-1 marks in the Ancient Eight  … Harvard has won at least 20 games in each of the last five years, becoming the first Ivy League program to post five straight 20-win seasons since Penn did so a record six times from 1970-75 … The Crimson shot 58.7 percent (27-46) from the field, the second-highest field goal percentage by the team this season … Harvard held Cornell to 44 points, the second lowest total for a Crimson opponent this season and the fifth time an opponent has scored fewer than 50 … Laurent Rivard scored 12 points to pass Keith Wright '12 for 16th place on Harvard's career scoring list (1,188 points) … Harvard had four players reach double-digits for the second straight game … Brandyn Curry matched his career-high with five steals.


Anonymous said...

Last night, "Ivy Basketball" tweeted, "Harvard at -16 in Ithaca is silly. Even if Crimson does go up by 16 at any point, 5 players went 38+ mins last night. No way HAR holds it."

What have we learned? At least three lessons: (1) "Ivy Basketball" is not quite as smart as he thinks he is.

(2) That's how billion-dollar casinos get financed.

(3) Don't underestimate the weakness of this year's Cornell team.

Old Grad said...

What's with all the switching on defense ? Whatever happened to fighting your way through picks ? When a 6foot guard ends up on a 6-5 forward not too many good things can happen. Teach the guys how to step back and give the defender a chance to get through. Harvard got too many easy points under the basket.