Saturday, January 24, 2015

News and Notes: Saturday Edition

Below, news and notes...

  • Bleacher Report wonders if an Ivy such as Harvard can go undefeated this season and notes, "these teams know each other so well and play such a unique Friday/Saturday schedule that it's pretty rare for a team to go 14-0. It has only happened once in the past 11 seasons—Cornell pulled it off in 2007-08."
Cornell-Columbia, round 2, set for Saturday in NYC
Cornell's women's basketball team will be looking to finish a sweep of Columbia on Saturday afternoon in New York, while the Big Red men are aiming for a split with the Lions when they meet at 7 p.m.
One team will be looking for a sweep and the other a split when the Cornell basketball teams invade Levien Gym in New York for round 2 of the annual home-and-home series with Ivy League travel partner Columbia.
The doubleheader gets under way at 4:30 p.m. with the women's game between the Big Red (10-5 overall, 1-0 Ivy League) and the Lions (6-9, 0-1). Cornell will be looking to make it seven wins in the last eight meetings with Columbia; Coach Dayna Smith's Red opened Ivy play last weekend at Newman Arena with a convincing 59-39 victory.
Coach Bill Courtney's Big Red men (8-9, 0-1) will be looking to avenge last Saturday's 48-45 loss to the Lions (9-6, 1-0), in which Cornell rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half and had two chances to tie or take the lead in the final 10 seconds. The men's game is slated to tip off at 7.
The Big Red women, who will take a four-game win streak into Saturday's game, are led by Ivy Player of the Year candidate Nia Marshall. The 6-foot sophomore forward leads the league in scoring (18.3 points per game) and is second in steals per game (2.7) fifth in field-goal percentage (49.1) and sixth in rebounds (7.9). Marshall, who has three 30-point games this season and is a three-time Ivy Player of the Week, had 19 points, six rebounds and four steals last Saturday against Columbia.
Sophomore guard Megan LeDuc had eight steals, matching the school record, and eight assists last weekend as Cornell forced 23 Lions turnovers, including 16 steals, which turned into 24 Cornell points.
Columbia — which has won six of its eight home games this season — is led by 6-foot sophomore Tori Oliver (17.9 ppg.), who's tied for second in the league in scoring and had 15 points a week ago at Cornell. Camille Zimmerman added 10 points but shot just 2-for-12 from the floor; she made all six of her free-throw attempts and is second in the league at 82.9 percent from the line.
The Lions beat the Big Red last year in Levien Gym, 71-64, as Allyson DiMagno scored 21 points, 15 of them in the second half as the Red rallied from a seven-point halftime deficit.
MEN: A week ago against the Lions, Cornell got 17 points from sophomore guard Robert Hatter — who held Columbia leading scorer Maodo Lo without a point for the first time in more than 50 games — but couldn't quite complete the rally after trailing the entire game, and by double-digits for much of the second half.
Columbia was led by freshman guard Kyle Castlin, who had 12 points. Lo, who was averaging 17.2 points entering the game, picked up his second personal foul less than three minutes in and only played 17 minutes for the game.
On Thursday, 6-7 senior forward Shonn Miller (16.6 ppg.) was announced as one of 40 players across the nation named to the Watch List for the Lou Henson Award, given to the Division I "Mid-Major" Player of the Year. Miller scored just eight points last weekend but still leads the Ivies in both scoring and rebounding (8.0 rpg.) and is in the top 10 in steals, blocks and free-throw percentage (86.4 pct.).
Also averaging double-figures for the Big Red are Hatter (12.7 ppg.) and senior guard Devin Cherry (10.1 ppg.).
Lo is the Lions' lone double-figure scorer at 16.1 ppg., with 6-4 rookie Castlin at 9.8 ppg.
Columbia owns a 125-98 advantage in the all-time series with Cornell and has won seven of the last nine meetings, including a sweep last season. Cornell's last victory over the Lions came two years ago in New York, 66-63.
Both Cornell teams take on Brown and Yale next weekend as the two-game conference weekends commence. The men host the Bears (7 p.m. Friday) and Bulldogs (6 p.m. Saturday), while the women are on the road.
NOTES: Cornell's men have made 144 of 177 foul shots (81.4 pct.) over its last eight games; over the last two games, Cornell has scored 67 points off turnovers to just nine for its opponents (Alfred State, Columbia). ... Cornell eight wins thus far mark a six-game improvement over last season (2-26), the best improvement in the country to date. ... Cornell's women own a 42-24 edge in the all-time series with Columbia, which began in 1975-76; the team represented Barnard College till '84-85, when the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium was organized and it began playing as Columbia. ... The Cornell women's 10-5 start matches the best in program history (1999-2000). The Red hopes to avoid matching that team's finish — it lost 10 of its final 11 games to wind up 11-15 overall, 3-11 in the Ivy League.
Red to Face Columbia Lions for Second of Back-to-Back Games

With the Ivy League season heading into full swing, the Red will be matched up against familiar foes from here on out, beginning with a matchup against the Columbia Lions on Saturday. A week after falling just short to the Lions at Newman Arena, 48-45, the Red hits the road to take on the New York City squad on its home court. Cornell went 3-5 over the course of winter break, giving it an overall record of 8-9 heading into the second half of the regular season and the remainder of Ivy League play.
The story of last weekend’s matchup can be almost entirely told through a single statistic: Columbia shot 44 percent from the field, while Cornell shot just 25 percent. Despite this stark difference in field goal percentages, the Red managed to remain within striking distance throughout the game. The squad cut the Lions’ largest lead of 12 points down to just one with 18 seconds left, before ultimately losing by three. Sophomore guard Robert Hatter carried the team down the stretch, scoring seven points in the final minute of the game. Hatter lead the scoring with 17 points, ahead of a team where no one was able to score more than nine points. That will have to change if the Red are to knock off the Lions this weekend.
Senior forward Shonn Miller, who currently leads the Ivy League in both scoring (16.6 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg), was held to just eight points on 3/13 shooting. Miller has made himself a frontrunner for Ivy League Player of the Year mainly because he is so efficient and versatile offensively. Despite this, the Lions’ did a tremendous job of stifling his ability to hit shots from the outside, made evident by his 1/8 shooting night from beyond the arc. Regardless, Head Coach Bill Courtney has called upon Miller time and time again.
“Since the beginning of the season, he has really stepped up his game. He has gotten into great shape, and that has allowed him to play effectively for extended periods of time. He has worked to improve his skills across the board, and it is showing in games,” Courtney said.
Despite his subpar performance in the previous matchup, it is clear to the coaches, and to anyone who has seen Miller play this year, that he is a much improved and effective player this season. It is reasonable to assume that Miller’s workload will remain fairly high offensively, so do not expect him to ease his aggression when called upon to score on Saturday.
While the Red struggled to find the net in its first match against Columbia, the team succeeded in forcing 24 turnovers throughout the game. The quickness and outstanding lateral movement of the Cornell guards allowed the Red to disrupt the offensive flow of the Lions’ backcourt, and subsequently led to positive trips on the offensive end.
For a team that is so guard heavy, tough offensive nights are natural. The Red does not have the luxury that a squad like Duke has with a player like Jahlil Okafor that can score at any time. Because of that, it has to expect that there will be nights where the ball simply does not fall from the outside. Despite this, for the majority of the season, the squad has been able to keep itself in games with stout defense and a solid offensive play, focused on constant movement and spreading the ball around. The Red staff seems confident and will continue to utilize its same game plan.
“We are playing well and headed in the right direction. It’s nice to see us continuing to improve throughout the course of the season, especially heading into Ivy League play full time,” Courtney said.
Columbia made headlines when it challenged No. 1 Kentucky early in the season before ultimately losing, 56-46. Since then, the Lions have gone 5-3 and have an overall record of 9-6. With the top two scorers in the Ivy League, Shonn Miller and Maodo Lo (16.1 ppg), pitted against each other for the second time in a week, expect more scoring and more efficiency from both sides. If history is any indicator, this will be a close game, and is as important as an early season game can be for the Red.
 Men’s basketball looks for Cornell sweep
With all the annual roster turnover in college sports, there’s no replacement for experience.

So what did the men’s basketball team gain, exactly, from its ugly 48-45 win at Cornell on Saturday?

“It’s helpful for the rest of our team to know that we don’t need 18 points from [junior guard] Maodo [Lo] to win,” Lions head coach Kyle Smith noted, for one.

The Light Blue (9-6, 1-0 Ivy) will have a chance to apply those lessons in a rematch with Cornell (8-9, 0-1 Ivy) at home on Saturday.

For the backcourt, the goal is to be able to provide what’s needed and expected—whether that’s ball handling from junior guard Isaac Cohen and sophomore guard Kendall Jackson, good shooting and plays under pressure from senior guard Steve Frankoski, or tenacity from first-year guard Kyle Castlin, all of which were on display on Saturday.

Jackson especially stood out, scoring eight points in a career-high 16 minutes.

“He gives us some quickness and relieves a lot of pressure, especially against a team like Cornell that’s going to apply man-to-man pressure,” Smith said.

The most important ingredient, though, is a productive Lo. The second-team All-Ivy guard went scoreless in just 17 minutes, only attempting two shots. He also picked up five rebounds and committed five turnovers.

“I think he’s frustrated because he doesn’t foul very much,” Smith said, alluding to the fact that Lo, who only takes a team-best 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes, has been called for 13 fouls in his last three Division I games—including at least a couple of questionable ones on Saturday—forcing him to the bench more than he’s used to. “You feel like you’re getting picked on, and you’re a little tentative.”

To be sure, Lo wasn’t the only issue for the Lions. The rest of the team still committed 18 turnovers and only got to the free-throw line 10 times.

The team’s saving grace was on the defensive end, where it limited Cornell to its second lowest offensive output of the season.

In the frontcourt, sophomore forward Jeff Coby posted 10 points and nine rebounds, and helped limit Cornell’s former All-Ivy forward Shonn Miller to only eight points and four rebounds—half of his season averages.

Although Big Red guard Robert Hatter scored 17 points, Cornell got very little from the rest of its lineup—no one else broke into double figures—and was held to its second lowest point total of the season.

Smith said such contributions from the team’s “five-headed monster” up front—Coby, sophomore forwards Luke Petrasek and Chris McComber, sophomore center Conor Voss, and senior center Cory Osetkowski—would be key moving forward in conference play, especially with back-to-backs beginning next week, though it’s difficult to expect Miller to be held in check to that extent again.

That also applies more broadly to the Big Red as a team—it shot only 25 percent from the field in the last game.

Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Levien Gymnasium.

(9-6, 1-0) (8-9, 0-1)

ANNOUNCERS (AUDIO)  Jerry Recco & Sal Licata

The Lions made it three in a row over Cornell after grinding out a 48-45 win in Ithaca last weekend. Both squads’ leading scorers were held in check with Maodo Lo going scoreless and Shonn Miller compiling just eight points. Columbia committed 24 turnovers. but limited the Big Red to 25 percent shooting from the floor to pick up its first Ivy League victory.
Columbia and Cornell will meet for the 223rd time, dating back to the 1902-03 season. The Lions hold a 125-97 record against the Big Red and have won seven of the last nine meetings. Last season, Columbia swept the season series for the first time since 2011.
The Lions are 28-31 all-time in Ivy League openers and are 4-1 under the direction of Kyle Smith, including last weekend’s 48-45 win in Ithaca.
Cornell assistant coach Jon Jacques spent the 2012-13 season on the Columbia sidelines as a graduate manager before accepting his current position at his alma mater prior to the 2013-14 season. The Big Red’s top assistant Marlon Sears was also a member of Joe Jones’ staff at Columbia during the 2009-10 campaign.
Columbia held opponents under 50 points for the fifth time after giving up 45 to Cornell on Jan. 17. The Lions did not surrender 50 points in three straight games from Nov. 23-29 for the first time since 2002 when the Lions did it in four consecutive games from Jan. 15-Feb. 1. (At Albany - L, 40-41, Cornell - W, 56-40, at Cornell - W, 54-42, at Princeton - L, 41-49).
Additionally, the Lions are 24th in the nation, surrendering just 58.5 points per game to the opposition. Columbia’s 3-point defense has been a strength throughout the year, holding opponents to 27.7 percent shooting from beyond the arc which leads the Ancient Eight and ranks 12th in the NCAA.
Columbia’s 112 points against Central Penn established a new Levien Gymnasium record, eclipsing the old mark of 109 set by the Lions on Dec. 29, 2007 against Polytechnic. It is the highest single-game point total since the program set the record of 118 on Jan. 12, 1977 against Wagner.
In their last six games, the Lions’ bench has outscored its opponents’ reserves, 203-80. Against Hofstra, Columbia held a 33-4 edge in bench points. At UConn, the trio of Jeff Coby, Steve Frankoski and Luke Petrasek teamed up for 27 of Columbia’s 29 bench scoring. The Lions posted a 17-0 edge in bench points in their win over Colgate, they held a 24-8 advantage against Stony Brook on Jan. 6 and outscored Central Penn 68-20.
First-year Kyle Castlin’s scoring average of 9.8 points per game and field goal percentage of 50 percent leads all Ancient Eight neophytes. He has started all 15 games for Columbia and has a pair of Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors under his belt (Dec. 22, Jan. 5).
Columbia’s top threat off the bench has been senior Steve Frankoski. He has scored in double-figures in five straight games and is averaging 8.9 points to go with a .392 3-point field goal percentage. The tri-captain moved to fifth place on the all-time 3-point field goal list (151) after knocking down a pair of treys at Cornell on Jan. 17 and is six shy of moving into fourth.
Every team needs one and that’s what the Lions have in junior Isaac Cohen. The 6-4 guard is currently second in the Ivy League in assists at 4.7 per game and is pulling down 6.3 rebounds per game, which is the best among guards in the Ancient Eight and ninth overall in the conference. Cohen narrowly missed posting just the third Ivy League triple-double ever with his eight-point, 10-rebound, nine-assist effort against Stony Brook on Jan. 6.
So far, the Lions are continuing their home dominance with a 7-2 record and have won five of those games by double figures. Last season, Columbia won 14 games in Levien Gymnasium, the most since the building opened its doors in 1974. The Lions are now 21-6 at home in the last two years and in the Kyle Smith era, they are 44-22.
Isaac Cohen’s 10 assists against Colgate was the most for a Lion since Brian Barbour posted 12 against Elon on Dec. 29, 2012. He also handed out five or more assists in Columbia’s first five games this season, the longest stretch for a Columbia player since Barbour accomplished the feat in six-straight spanning two seasons (last five games of 2011-12 and first game of 2012-13). The Orlando, Florida, native also had 10 rebounds in back-to-back contests against Lehigh and FDU, becoming the first player to record double-figure rebounds in consecutive games since Mark Cisco hauled in 10 or more in three-straight during Ivy League play in 2012.

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