Saturday, November 15, 2014

GAME RECAP: Cornell 68, George Mason 60

(Photo By Bill Bride)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- You can officially wipe the slate clean. This is a brand new Cornell basketball team - and it started on the defensive end. Senior Shonn Miller, in his first game back after missing the entirety of the 2013-14 season that saw Cornell win just one Division I game and two contests overall, dominated with 21 points, 13 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots as the Big Red topped George Mason 68-60 on Friday evening at the Patriot Center in the season opener for both teams. Miller spearheaded a defensive charge that held the Patriots out of the Atlantic 10 to just 31 percent shooting and a miserable 7-of-27 evening from 3-point range (26 percent). Miller wasn't the only highlight of a game that saw everyone contribute. Sophomore Robert Hatter matched Miller with a game0hgh 21 points and added five rebounds, while senior captain Devin Cherry notched a near triple-double with nine points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Galal Cancer, also returning after a year away from basketball, had seven points, three rebounds and two assists in his return, while David Onuorah had six points and five boards. Picked eighth in the Ivy League Preseason Media Poll, Cornell sent a message that it won't be a pushover. The first step came in head coach Bill Courtney's old stomping grounds at George Mason, where the fifth-year Big Red mentor served eight seasons as assistant and associate head coach. He recruited the core of players that helped the Patriots to the 2006 NCAA Final Four, but this time he returned wearing the visitor's colors. Defensively, the Big Red was outstanding over the first 20 minutes and made just enough shots to take a 34-31 halftime lead. Cornell held George Mason to 11-of-33 shooting (33 percent) in the half, including 6-of-25 to start the contest. Miller hit three late jumpers, two from beyond the arc, and a long two-pointer at the buzzer to send the visitors into the break with the momentum. The senior added five rebounds and a monstrous blocked shot to energize the defense early. Hatter hit all three of his field goals, including both 3-point attempts, for 10 first half points, while Cherry grabbed six rebounds and had five assists. The Big Red more than held its own on the backboards, outboarding its Atlantic 10 foe 21-19 in the half. Cornell hit its first four 3-pointers of the night and jumped out to a 18-10 lead seven minutes in after the second consecutive trey by Hatter and a pair of free throws by Cancer. The Patriots overtook the Big Red at 21-20 with just over five minutes to play in the half on back-to-back treys by Holloway, and it was back-and-forth the rest of the half with four lead changes and a couple ties down the stretch. Cornell opened the second half with a 7-0 run, with Miller hitting a 3-pointer, Onuorah finishing a dunk and Cherry going coast-to-coast for a layup to force a GMU timeout. The Patriots wouldn't get closer than seven points with under a minute to play, as the Big Red answered every mini-Mason run with defensive stops and finished the game like it hadn't the previous year. Patrick Holloway had a game-high 22 points to lead George Mason, though eight came in the final 34 seconds after the game had all but been decided. Cornell won the battle of the boards (46-38) and attempted 28 free throws while connecting on half of its 18 3-point attempts. The defense forced just five turnovers while committing 16 themselves, but its suffocating defense and ability to clean the defensive glass allowed it to snap a 17-game road losing streak. The Big Red will look to make it 2-0 on the young season when it visits Loyola (MD) on Sunday, Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. in Baltimore, Md.
The true measure of Paul Hewitt’s George Mason squad will not come until the Atlantic 10 schedule kicks into gear, but if the season opener Friday night was any indication, the Patriots and their impatient fans are in for a very long winter. One year after a bruising debut season in the A-10, the Patriots began the 2014-15 campaign with a dreary performance. They lost. They lost at home. They lost to Cornell, which beat one Division I opponent last season. The Patriots led for only a few minutes during the 68-60 defeat before 6,007. They shot 31 percent from the field and 52 percent from the free throw line. Instead of taking advantage of superior height and strength, they launched 27 three-pointers (making seven) and scored just 18 points in the lane. Favored to win by double digits, Mason trailed by 15 points before a futile late surge by junior guard Patrick Holloway, who had a game-high 22 points. The Big Red made 6 of 8 three-pointers in the first half and 9 of 18 overall to win the first meeting between the programs. Shonn Miller, who missed last season with a shoulder injury, had 21 points and 13 rebounds and Robert Hatter added 21 points. The duo combined to hit 7 of 11 three-pointers. “I guess we just lost sight of what works for us, and that is throwing the ball inside,” Holloway said. “We got caught up in trying to match their threes, which is nearly impossible because they made nearly everything. That is when the lead kept going up and up and we started taking bad shots.” Holloway and sophomore Jalen Jenkins (10 points) were Mason’s only effective players. The rest of the team shot 9 of 41. “One of the big things we talked about all offseason and early season was cutting down turnovers,” Hewitt said. “We only had five turnovers tonight, but we did not make good use of those offensive opportunities.” Despite its shortcomings, the Big Red boasted a 46-38 rebounding advantage. “The biggest key for us we talked about was rebounding, rebounding, rebounding, rebounding,” Cornell Coach Bill Courtney said. The former Mason assistant (1997-2005) was asked if he took particular satisfaction winning in Fairfax. “I think I take satisfaction from any win these days,” he said with a chuckle. Last season the Big Red defeated Division III Oberlin and Dartmouth during a 2-26 nightmare. On Friday, though, his team made its first four three-pointers. The Patriots did not have the lead until Holloway’s consecutive three-pointers late in the first half. Miller, an all-Ivy League selection in 2012-13, scored Cornell’s final 11 points of the period for a 34-31 lead. He began the second half with his fourth three-pointer, keying a 7-0 start. The Patriots pulled within six with 12 minutes left, but three-pointers by Darryl Smith and Hatter restored order. The Patriots missed 11 of 12 shots, including a three-shot sequence under the basket. Hatter scored in transition and, as the clock dipped to four minutes, Mason trailed by 13. “Obviously we didn’t do a good job getting the ball inside, pounding inside,” Hewitt said. “We had a three-pointer go down early and we relied on that too much. We got out of character.”  GMU Notes: Therence Mayimba, a 6-7 freshman forward from Gabon who played at Montrose Christian and Saint James in Hagerstown, is still awaiting eligibility clearance from the NCAA. . . . Senior guard Corey Edwards returned after missing part of preseason with a concussion. . . . Ahmad Gilbert, a 6-6 forward from Philadelphia, signed a national letter of intent. He was the Pennsylvania Class AA player of the year as a junior last season.
FAIRFAX, Va. – Junior guard Patrick Holloway scored eight points in the final 35 seconds to cut George Mason’s double-digit deficit, but it was not enough to rally back as Cornell topped men’s basketball 68-60 in the season opener for both teams Friday night. Holloway finished as the game’s leading scorer with 22 points. Cornell shot 44.7 percent (21-47) from the floor, including a 50.0 percent effort from three-point range (9-18), while holding the Patriots to a 30.9 percent (21-68) shooting effort. Mason drained seven three-pointers led by Holloway with four. The Big Red saw the majority of its offensive effort come from Shonn Miller and Robert Hatter, each scoring 21 points in the contest as Miller posted a double-double with 13 rebounds. Cornell converted 17 of 28 free throws, while the Patriots were 11-of-21 at the charity stripe. Shevon Thompson led Mason on the boards, pulling down 10 of Mason’s 38. Cornell won the battle on the boards, 46-38. Marquise Moore finished with eight points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Patriots. Mason committed just five turnovers in the game and forced the Big Red into 16 miscues. Cornell came out taking a six point lead early in the contest before the Patriots knotted it up at 8-all on a Jenkins bucket at the 15:27 mark. Falling behind by eight, Vaughn Gray sparked an 11-2 Patriot run capped by a Holloway triple that gave the Patriots their first lead of the game, 21-20, with 5:33 to play. Mason kept the game close the remainder of the half, but a pair of treys from Miller to close the half left the Big Red with a 35-31 halftime advantage. Converting their first three possessions of the second half, the Big Red took a double-digit lead, 41-31, just over two minutes into the period. Connecting from beyond the arc, freshman Isaiah Jackson would bring Mason back to within six points, 45-39, with 12:05 to play, but that would be the closest the Patriots would come the remainder of the game. Cornell extended its lead to 16 as Mason was trailing by 15 before Holloway ignited for eight points in the final 35 seconds to account for the final 68-60 score. Mason returns to action welcoming its second Ivy League opponent this weekend in Princeton on Sunday. Tip time is slated for 1 p.m.


Matt said...

Very nice win. A confidence builder. Now let's see if the offense will grow to rely less heavily on the three. Can't expect 50% 3PT FG on a consistent basis.

Anonymous said...

I agree