Monday, March 10, 2014

Game Recap: Penn 69 Cornell 65

After a pair of losses on the road last weekend, the Red returned to its home court for bouts with Princeton and Penn, two teams in the middle of the Ivy League standings.
The first matchup of the team’s final weekend of the season was against the Tigers, who came to Ithaca with a 5-6 conference record. However, the Tigers broke out of the locker room with energy, silencing the crowd at Newman Arena by connecting on six three-pointers just five minutes into the game, making the score 25-0 before the Red made its first shot.
The Red’s attempts at closing the early gap that Princeton established proved futile, as the score was 44-26 by halftime.
Despite Cornell’s attempts to get stops on defense, the Tigers’ hot shooting proved too much to handle. Senior guard T.J. Bray and senior forward Will Barrett each scored 21 points for the Tigers, the latter of the two going a perfect eight-for-eight from the field and five-for-five from three-point range. A collection of other players on Princeton’s roster helped to solidify the lead.
Cornell’s offensive leaders throughout the season — sophomore guard Nolan Cressler, junior guard Devin Cherry and senior forward Dwight Tarwater — led the team’s scoring in this matchup. Cherry tacked on seven rebounds and five assists to his 13 points for a solid all-around game performance. Despite the efforts of Cherry, Tarwater and Cressler — who combined for 41 of the team’s 51 points — the Red’s offensive production was not enough to lead the team to victory. At the final buzzer, the score was 91-51 in Princeton’s favor. The Tigers shot 64 percent from the field compared to the Red’s 33 percent.
The Red came out on Saturday for senior night, with one more opportunity to close out the season with a win. Looking for revenge against a Penn team that had defeated the squad by seven earlier in the season, Cornell donned the solid red jerseys for the final matchup of the season.
“Despite the bad record, one thing that I am really proud of is that this team always fights for a win,” said senior guard Dom Scelfo.
Scelfo said he was excited to suit up for action in Saturday’s game after suffering an ankle injury that could have ended his season several weeks ago. 
“I’m proud of our team. This team shows a lot of promise, a lot of character, guys work hard every day.” — Jake Matthews
Prior to tip-off, a ceremony took place at center court as Cornell’s veteran players were honored for their long-lasting contributions to the team. Scelfo, senior guard Jake Matthews and Tarwater all took center-court with their families in front of a lively hometown crowd.
“I’m proud of our team. This team shows a lot of promise, a lot of character, guys work hard every day,” said senior guard Jake Matthews. “We have a bright future.”
The frenzy of the senior night festivities lasted into game time. The crowd was lively and supported the team on every made basket and smart play on defense. The Red fed off of the energy in the building.
However, the Quakers refused to go down easy. The teams traded baskets throughout the first half, and a three by Cressler at the first half buzzer sent Penn into the locker room clinging to a one-point lead.
Cressler was the go-to man on offense once again for the Red. The sophomore led his team in first-half scoring, putting up 15 points on four three-pointers, including the buzzer-beating one that brought the crowd to its feet.
The teams came out in the second half poised for a battle. The Red started with a 4-0 run to regain the lead, but Penn’s offense responded. The Red had trouble handling dump-down passes to Penn’s sophomore big man Darien Nelson-Henry and the Quaker’s guards were also able to hit big shots down the stretch that kept the Quakers on top.
However, Cornell fought to the very end, cutting an eight-point lead with 54 seconds left in half in a matter of less than 20 seconds. However, Penn took advantage of its trips to the free-throw line down the stretch, and the Red was never able to cut the lead down to less than four points.
With 1.3 seconds on the clock, the scoreboard read 69-65 in favor of the Quakers, and the crowd cheered as the Red played its final moments on its home court this season.
“It didn’t really hit me until after the game,” Matthews said as he reflected upon his career with the Red after the loss to Penn. “It felt like just another game from the start. It kind of just hits you at the very end, and it’s very surreal.”

Box Score I Box Score (PDF) I Game Highlights

ITHACA, N.Y. -- On Senior Day, it was sophomore Nolan Cressler and junior Devin Cherry who tried to will the Big Red to a win to honor their three teammates playing their final game for Cornell. It just wasn't enough as Penn claimed a 69-65 victory over the home team on Saturday evening at Newman Arena. The Big Red closed its season with a 2-26 overall record (1-13 Ivy), while Penn moved to 8-19 (5-8 Ivy).

Cressler scored 28 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Cherry notched 12 points and seven assists, but the Big Red shot just 38 percent as a team overall and from 3-point range. Cornell's three seniors each got the start, with Dwight Tarwater scoring eight points and grabbing five boards, Dominick Scelfo hitting an early 3-pointer and also grabbing a rebound and adding a steal, and Jake Matthews hitting a pair of treys for six points. He added a rebound, an assist and a steal in the loss. Junior Ned Tomic added six points and five rebounds and freshman David Onuorah had two points, three rebounds, four blocks and a steal despite battling foul trouble all night.

Dau Jok scored a career-high 21 points and hit six 3-pointers for the Quakers, who were playing without leading scorer Tony Hicks. Fellow senior Miles Cartwright had 15 points, five rebounds and five assists and a third senior, Fran Doughertym had 14 points and five boards. Penn shot 55 percent in the second half and 48 percent for the game and connected on an impressive 19-of-21 from the free-throw line.

The contest was back-and-forth throughout and featured seven ties and five lead changes. The Quakers largest lead was eight and the Big Red's was just five, and neither team could pull away.

Jok, a replacement starter for Hicks, nailed three 3-pointers in the game's first four minutes, but Cornell had plenty of momentum with seniors Tarwater and Scelfo opening the game with treys of their own. Jok's fourth 3-pointer of the night, just 5:21 into the game, gave Penn a six-point lead (17-11) and the lead grew to eight (19-11) after a pair of Rennard free throws.

Like it would all night, and all season during such a tough year, the Big Red answered. A quick 7-0 run featuring 3-pointers by Matthews and one by Cressler, got the home team back to within one. A 3-pointer by Cressler tied the score with 7:28 remaining in the half. Cornell went up five with the highwater mark coming at 28-23 at the end of a 15-2 Big Red run punctuated by a pair of free throws and a tip-in by Tomic.

Penn regained the lead on a layup by Jamal Lewis and built an edge of four points while inbounding the ball with 2.7 seconds left. After a failed attempt and a five second violation in the backcourt, Cornell took over. Cherry, the inbounder, found Cressler 10 feet from the top of the key. The sophomore raised up after one dribble and connected on his fourth 3-pointer of the half to cut the Penn lead to one (36-35) at the break.

Cornell took the lead on consecutive buckets by Cherry and Cressler to open the second half, but the Quakers answered with a 10-1 run to regain the lead for good. The Big Red got back within two points on two different occasions, but couldn't make it all the way back.

Head coach Bill Courtney was able to call a quick timeout with two seconds to play and the Big Red down four to sub out his three seniors, earning them a standing ovation as they walked off the court for the final time in a Cornell uniform with both teams and the entire Newman Arena crowd on their feet.

The back-to-back weekend games of the Ivy League schedule present an interesting challenge to the eight conference teams. On one hand if a team wants to keep momentum going or swing it in the opposite direction if they just suffered a setback. But on the other hand there is very little time to really prepare or make adjustments to game plans for the next night.

Often head coach Jerome Allen is asked the question after a tough loss “Does the message change between tonight and tomorrow?” His response is often: “You have to stay they course and trust the system.” I buy some of that sentiment, but another part of me feels that there is literally nothing they can do with basically 18 hours a coach has to work with. This was evident in Saturday’s effort against Cornell. However unlike last night’s effort, the system worked.

Penn 69, Cornell 65.

Penn was led with a strong performance from Dau Jok, who had 21 points on 7-11 shooting. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Miles Jackson-Cartwright who had 15 points complemented Jok’s effort.

Fran Dougherty had 14 points and five rebounds.

Jok was put in the starting lineup because of Tony Hicks suspension after an altercation the night before against Columbia. He made the most of his time in the game.

Penn shot well from the field going 47 percent and 19-21 from the free throw line. They lost the turnover battle 17 to 10, but made up for it on the glass going with a 37-27 advantage.

The win for Penn was their second road win on the season and snapped an 11-game losing streak away from the Palestra.

Nolan Cressler paced Cornell offensively with 28 points. The sophomore also had five rebounds in the contest. He was helped by the play of Devin Cherry, who had 12 points the losing effort.

The Penn Quakers season comes to a close this Tuesday when they travel to longtime rival Princeton in the finale. The Quakers beat the Tigers in their only matchup earlier this year in the Palestra, 77-74. It was Penn’s signature win on the season.

The Quakers’ five seniors will take the floor one more time in Princeton. Tip off for the game is at 8 p.m.

ITHACA - It only took a year.
Last season, Penn beat Brown at the Bears’ home floor on March 8. For the next 365 days, the Quakers would not win an Ancient Eight game on the road.
Seven Ivy League losses later and the Quakers finally ended their drought, defeating lowly Cornell in Ithaca, 69-65.
Playing without Tony Hicks, Penn (8-19, 5-8 Ivy) had to look elsewhere for its offense, and found it from senior captain Dau Jok, who drained six three pointers on his way to a career-high 21-point performance.
Jok, a player known for his leadership off the court just as much as his playing abilities, stepped into the starting lineup for coach Jerome Allen, and found his spot early and often. He played 39 minutes, two times the amount he had played in any other game this season.
"For four years now, coach has always emphasized being ready when your number is called," Jok said. "I was just trying to play as hard as I can. I was just trying to help the team as much as I can."
Cornell (2-25, 1-12 Ivy) came into the contest as one of the worst teams in college basketball on defense, allowing Jok - amongst others - to find himself open for three time and time again.
The game was played at a breakneck pace, with neither team playing patiently. The contest was tailor-made for players like Jok and Cornell star sophomore Nolan Cressler, who took advantage of the lack of defense by the Quakers. Cressler kept pace with Jok all night, scoring 28 points himself.
On the defensive end, the Big Red tried its best to limit the efforts of senior Fran Dougherty and sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry, who sat out the first 10 minutes of Friday’s contest against Columbia for reasons coach Allen would not disclose.
Cornell’s defensive efforts were strong early on, as the Big Red forced enough turnovers off of passes inside to Nelson-Henry and Dougherty to hang tight with Penn, going into half down by just one, losing, 36-35.
"In the first half, I thought we had a few opportunities," Allen said. "We just didn't have the mindset to finish through contact."
But in the second half, Penn’s big men took over. Dougherty and Nelson-Henry paced Penn early in the second half, opening the lead up to seven early thanks to improved spacing and renewed effort. The duo down low scored 20 points combined on the night.
With Dougherty in foul trouble halfway through the second, Cornell went on a run of its own, closing the gap down to two, forcing Allen to call a timeout that allowed the Quakers to catch their collective breaths.
In the huddle, Jackson-Cartwright proceeded to explode on his team, trying to get everyone more into the contest, even getting into it with assistant coach Scott Pera.
The speech lit a spark underneath Penn, as Jok drained another three a minute later to extend the lead back to five before junior Henry Brooks hit a fall away jumper with 4:28 to go to extend Penn’s lead to seven.
Jok did that time and time again, ensuring that any time Cornell went on a run, that he had an answers from long range.
The Quakers would never relinquish the lead, and Jok finished his second last game in a Penn uniform with his best on-court performance in the last four years. 
But for a player - and a person - who has made more of an impact during his four years at Penn  ways besides draining threes, he was just happy he could help make the end of a tough season a little more bearable.
"I was just glad I was able to help the guys," Jok said. "We needed a win."

There was very little to write home about in Penn’s second to last game of the year against Cornell. The Quakers snuck by the Big Red, 69-65, but neither team looked very impressive outside of small spurts. Here is a slightly warped edition of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
There isn’t much to say in this regard. Cornell runs a chuck and pray offense, throwing up three-pointers without thinking and relying on sophomore guard Nolan Cressler to make anything happen. Yet Penn found itself behind in the second half before Fran Dougherty and company got going to push the Quakers ahead for good.
The Ugliest: 2013-14 Cornell basketball
Think Penn’s 8-19 record is bad? Just look at Cornell. The Big Red finished their season with a startling 2-26 record with just one win over a Division I opponent (A victory vs. Dartmouth). Cornell was left with little hope after junior guard Shonn Miller was injured before the season and the team barely salvaged a couple victories out of the season.
The Redeeming Qualities: Dau Jok and Penn’s seniors
On a night where nothing seemed to go right on either team, Cornell waded its way back into the game multiple times late in the second half. But each time, senior captain Dau Jok would hit a clutch three-pointer to hold off the Big Red. He finished the night with six threes and 21 points, playing 39 minutes and all of the second half. Dougherty and fellow-senior Miles Jackson-Cartwright played solid ball down the stretch as well, helping Penn to its first road win in a year.

Dau Jok scored 21 points - including 15 in the first half - and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds as Penn hung on to prevail, 69-65, at Cornell on Saturday night.

Miles Jackson-Cartwright had 15 points, five assists, and five rebounds for the Quakers (8-19, 5-8 Ivy League).

Fran Dougherty, a senior who starred at Archbishop Wood, added 14 points and five rebounds.

The Quakers hit 47.8 percent of their shots from the field overall, 90.5 percent from the foul line, and outrebounded the Big Red by 37-27.

Jok started in place of Tony Hicks, who was forced to sit Saturday after his ejection a night earlier at Columbia.

The senior guard entered the game with 27 points for the season, but drained six three-pointers to lead the Quakers.

Jok's 15 first-half points helped Penn establish a 36-35 lead at the break.

With the game tied at 40 early in the second period, the Quakers went on an 18-11 run - including a pair of three-pointers by Jok - to lead by 58-51 with 4 minutes, 35 seconds remaining and held on for the win.

Nolan Cressler led the Big Red (2-26, 1-13) with 28 points and five rebounds.

Penn's season will conclude on Tuesday at Princeton.

ITHACA, N.Y. - With Tony Hicks forced to sit out Saturday night’s game at Cornell, Quakers head coach Jerome Allen was forced to make a decision on a new fifth starter against the Big Red.
He selected senior Dau Jok.
It was a wise choice.
Jok entered Saturday’s game with 27 points this season. He opened Penn’s scoring with a pair of three-pointers and never looked back on Saturday, finishing the game with 21 (18 of them on six treys).
Penn needed every one of them, escaping the Big Red’s Newman Arena with a 69-65 victory.
So Penn improves to 8-19 overall, 5-8 in Ivy League play heading into Tuesday’s regular-season finale at Princeton. Cornell, meanwhile, ended its season at 2-26 overall, 1-13 in Ivy play.
The score was tied at 40-40 early in the second half, before Fran Dougherty (14 points) took over and gave Penn a lead it would relinquish. He scored six straight to put the Quakers up 46-40, then answered a Nolan Cressler layup with another jumper that made it 48-42.
Cornell got back within two, at 50-48, when Cressler drained a three-pointer. Jok responded with a trey of his own, though, to push it back up to five. Two minutes later, Jok again drained a three-pointer that again pushed a two-point lead to a five-point advantage with 6:47 left.
Nearly two minutes went by without any scoring, before Jok came up with a steal on Devin Cherry. Penn took a timeout, and out of the break Henry Brooks drained a jumper from the left corner that put the Quakers in front by seven, 58-51.
Another minute went by before Cherry scored to get Cornell going again, but Dougherty got the ball on the block and converted. With less than two minutes left, Cressler got Cornell within four points, but Miles Jackson-Cartwright nailed a jumper. Then Cressler turned it over, and Dougherty again scored inside with less than a minute to play.
Cornell got within four points on a pair of occasions in the final minute, but Penn made its free throws -- the Quakers were 19-of-21 from the charity stripe for the game -- and held off the Big Red.
Jok had seven rebounds, which also led Penn on Saturday night. Jackson-Cartwright ended the game with 15 points and five assists, while Dougherty finished with 14 points. Steve Rennard had six assists.
Penn will close its season on Tuesday night at Princeton; the Quakers and the archrival Tigers will tip off at 8 p.m. in Jadwin Gym, the second half of a doubleheader after the Penn and Princeton women play for the Ivy League title at 5:30.

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