Monday, February 16, 2015

GAME RECAP: Harvard 61, Cornell 40

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – A great start led Cornell to a halftime lead. A devastating Harvard run and tired legs erased it and led the Crimson to a 61-40 victory on Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion. The Crimson improved to 17-5 (7-1 Ivy), while the Big Red fell to 12-12 (4-4 Ivy).

Cornell used smothering defense and opportunistic offense to build a lead of as many as eight points in the first half and brought a 24-21 advantage into the break. Harvard turned the tables in the second 20 minutes.

A 24-2 Crimson run over the first 8:41 of the second half turned a three-point edge into a 19-point deficit in the blink of an eye, and Cornell could never recover. The starters didn't hit a second half field goal and the Big Red shot just 21 percent from the floor after halftime (24 percent for the game) in the loss.

Senior Shonn Miller led the Big Red with 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, while classmate Devin Cherry added eight points and JoJo Fallas hit a pair of 3-pointers off the bench for his six.

Harvard's Steve Moundou-Missi had 12 points and six rebounds to lead three double figure scorers, while Wesley Saunders had eight points, 11 rebounds and five assists. Both Siyani Chambers and Corbin Miller had 10 points. The Crimson shot 55 percent after halftime and 41 percent for the game and dominated the glass, outrebounding the Big Red 40-27.

Cornell's halftime lead was built on a defense that sped up the Crimson and limited their looks. The Big Red forced five turnovers, held Harvard to 9-of-29 shooting and without a 3-point field goal on eight errant attempts. Cornell didn't have an assist on its six baskets, but connected on 11-of-12 free throws to gain the lead.

An 8-2 Crimson run after the Big Red opened the game with a Devin Cherry jumper put the visitors in an early hole, but Cornell responded. Miller hit two free throws, then a 3-pointer to put them up 10-9. The lead would eventually grow to 19-11 after Hatter scored a three-point play and another runner in the lane sandwiched around two free throws by Cherry.

Moundou-Missi broke up a 7:35 stretch without a field goal for Harvard with a jumper, and a late three-point play by Jonah Travis and a driving layup by Chambers right before time expired got the home team back within three at the horn.

Wesley Saunders, who missed all six shots he took in the first half, hit a jumper, then a 3-pointer in the first 72 seconds of the second half to give harvard a lead. Agunwa Okolie dunked after a Harvard steal, Chambers hit a 3-pointer and then another. All of a sudden, Harvard led by double figures.

It wouldn't get better for the Big Red. Corbin Miller hit consecutive treys to make it a 19-point game and Cornell never got back within 16 points the rest of the way.

Cornell remains on the road next weekend for games at Yale on Friday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at Brown on Saturday, Feb. 21 at 6 p.m. The Big Red split with the teams at home, defeating the Bears 57-49 on Jan. 30 and falling to the Bulldogs the following night, 65-57.

Just two minutes after intermission, an errant Cornell pass landed in the hands of co-captain Steve Moundou-Missi. The big man shoveled it ahead to classmate Wesley Saunders, who tossed it up the court to a streaking Agunwa Okolie. Okolie took a handful of dribbles before elevating, cocking back his right arm, and slamming the ball home.
The Big Red whistled for a timeout as the Harvard student section jumped to its feet. The Crimson still only led by four—but it was enough. The run had begun.
After a lackluster first half in which both teams struggled from the floor, the Harvard’s men’s basketball team wasted no time after intermission, jumping out to a 22-2 run to begin the period. Cornell (12-12, 4-4 Ivy) just couldn’t match the Crimson’s offensive awakening, and fell to Harvard, 61-40, Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion.
“I was very pleased and impressed at how we were able to grind a bit in that first half—not shooting the ball well at all, that was a good sign that we didn’t give in completely,” Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said. “[We] had fun playing as we [went] ahead…. The dam broke a little bit for their team and that allowed for us to get ahead and have a comfortable margin as the game went on.”
After an unusually quiet first period for Saunders in which he failed to score a single point, it was he who began the tear for Harvard (17-5, 7-1). Coming out of the break down three, Saunders scored on two of his team’s first three possessions, knocking in a fade-away bank shot and a trey to give the Crimson its first lead since the 10:57 mark of the first period.
The Okolie dunk just one minute later extended Harvard’s advantage to four, before sophomore Corbin Miller and junior co-captain Siyani Chambers combined to hit four threes in five minutes from the left wing, right in front of the Crimson bench. With just over eight minutes gone by in the period, Harvard was running away with it, having pushed its lead to 17, 43-26.
“[We always] talk about the first four minutes of the second half and what team is going to seize control of the game, and I thought our kids did a magnificent job of that [tonight],” Amaker said. “No one was hunting for their shot. We have a phrase we use: ‘Let the shot find you.’ I thought our guys did that in the second half very well.”
On the next Harvard possession, Chambers turned away a pick at the top of the key to send the ball to Moundou-Missi in the right corner. With his feet just in front of the three-point line, the senior buried the deep jumper, effectively burying the Big Red with it as the basket put a cap on Harvard’s 22-2 run.
With Cornell held to just one field goal in those first nine minutes of play, both Amaker and his players attributed the team’s offensive success to its effort on the defensive end.
“We knew that we had to continue to lock down on defense,” Miller said. “We know as long as we’re playing solid defense…shots were going to fall eventually.”
For the game, Harvard was led by a coterie of role players, with typical-leading scorer Saunders struggling to find his shot: Moundou-Missi paced the team with 12, while Chambers and Miller added 10 apiece.
On the other end, Moundou-Missi was tasked with the biggest defensive assignment of the night as he matched up against Cornell standout forward Shonn Miller. Both Miller’s scoring and his shooting percentage took a dip on the night, as the big man converted only one of 10 attempts from the field, totaling 10 points—6.1 under his season average.
Although it was the Crimson’s triples that highlighted the second period, the first half was a markedly different story. Harvard went 0-for-8 from beyond the arc, and while the Crimson shot just 31 percent from the floor, it held Cornell to an even lower percentage—27.3—as the Big Red had as many field goals, six, as turnovers.
But a steady flow of fouls from Harvard’s big men sent the visiting squad to the line 12 times, where it did much of its early damage, missing just one from the stripe. While the Crimson chipped its way back into the contest before the halftime buzzer, the remnants of its offensive drought remained as the Big Red held a slim advantage heading into the locker room.
But the bevy of Harvard triples and Okolie’s one-hand slam did away with those last remnants, earning the Crimson its ninth-straight win over the Big Red.
“[This win] definitely gets our confidence up because we’ve been giving up big leads lately, so now that we know that we can actually close a team out, hopefully that will carry over into the rest of our games,” Saunders said. “[Cornell’s] a good team, so this was a great test.”

After draining seven threes in the first half of Friday night’s win over Columbia, the Crimson went 0-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half against Cornell. Senior Wesley Saunders was personally responsible for half of those misses, as he finished the first half without a single point.
In what would turn into a 31-minute drought dating back to last nights contest, Harvard simply couldn’t buy a basket from deep for the beginning of Saturday’s matchup.
“I think a lot of us took good shots,” sophomore guard Corbin Miller said. “I remember one in the corner that was wide open, it just didn’t go down.”
That was the storyline for Harvard in the open half; the Crimson’s offensive woes, especially from three, were not a product of poor possessions or stagnant players, but rather an inability to simply connect on shots.
Nonetheless, Harvard stayed the course. After missing his fifth three point attempt of the game to open the second half, Saunders promptly knocked down the Crimson’s first three of the game just two possessions later.
From there, it was as if the basket seemed to get wider and wider for the home team. In the second half, Harvard went 7-of-13 from three including two from both Miller and junior captain Siyani Chamber.
“Being here at home, our focus coming out was just to continue to play tough defense, attack on offense, and trust that shots were going to fall,” Miller said.
While Harvard’s offense may have come alive in the second half, that was by no means the case on the defensive end. Instead, the Crimson’s stifling defense was omnipresent throughout the entire contest.
Harvard set the tone from the opening possession. After Cornell won the tip off, junior Agunwa Okolie raced back and sent a lay up from Cornell senior Galal Cancer flying into the stands.
“The key to this game for us was our defense,” Head Coach Tommy Amaker noted. “When you see the numbers and it kind of shows you that our defensive pressure and ability to get the ball off the backboard allows us to play up the floor.”
While Harvard’s offense struggled in the first half, its defense limited Cornell, a team that averages 32.5 points per a half, to only 24 points in the first half.
“We kept our defensive intensity up,” Amaker said. “I thought that was the key for us at the half.
In the second half, it was more of the same. A combination of solid interior play by Okolie, Saunders, sophomore Zena Edosomwan combined with a collective defensive rebounding effort forced Cornell to settle for low percentage shots. Saunders alone was responsible for 10 defensive rebounds, as he fell just short of his career high of 12.
DON'T BLINKAs the clocked expired in the first half, junior captain Siyani Chambers broke down his defender to hit the layup and send the Crimson into the locker room trailing 24-21.
Previously, Harvard’s offense had struggled. No fast break points, five turnovers, and 31 percent shooting from the floor character a forgetful first half for the Crimson on offense.
Nonetheless, things changed ever so quickly for the home team. Saunders opened up the second half with five straight points, hitting a tough bank shot from the left side and then draining a three on the next possession.
“I just wanted to come out and give the team an energy boost and lead the way,” Saunders said. “That was a good start and my teammates just found me, they had confidence in me to keep giving me the ball.”
In just 1:12, Cornell had lost its lead that it had worked the entire first half to build. But things would only get worse from there for the Big Red.
Over the next eight minutes, Harvard would go on a 24-2 run, extending the lead and making it a 45-26 game. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the Crimson had taken what looked like a potential upset and turned it into a blowout.
During that run, Chamber’s ability to push the pace and find both Miller and Saunders in transition was crucial in breaking down the Cornell defense.

Tommy Amaker and the coach’s Harvard men’s basketball team can finally save some of their fingernails, as the Crimson didn’t need a nail-biting finish to take out Cornell, 61-40, yesterday at Lavietes Pavilion.
After a woeful offensive performance by both sides in the first half, it was the Crimson who finally woke up, going on a 24-2 run to start the second half and easily finishing off their sixth straight victory. Harvard won its previous three games by a combined eight points.
“It gets our confidence up. We’ve been given up big leads lately,” the Crimson’s Wesley Saunders said. “We know that we can actually close a team out and hopefully that can carryover into the rest of the games this year.”
Saunders, who was scoreless in the first 20 minutes on 0-for-6 shooting, opened the second half with five straight points. Saunders finished with eight points and added 11 rebounds.
Corbin Miller connected on two 3-pointers in the second stanza for the Crimson (17-5, 7-1 Ivy League), while Siyani Chambers finished the game with 10 points and five assists.
Cornell (12-12, 4-4) was held to 23.9 percent shooting from the field and scored five points in the first 10 minutes of the second half as Harvard started running away.
Saunders scored off the glass on an off-balanced jumper on the first possession of the second half and connected on a 3-pointer to give Harvard a 26-24 lead. Agunwa Okolie threw down an emphatic right-handed jam off a turnover to force the Big Red bench to call for a timeout.
David Onuorah scored for Cornell out of the timeout, but that would be it for the Big Red for a long time. While Cornell was shooting 1-for-14, Harvard scored 17 straight points.
“I thought the dam broke a little bit for their team and that allowed us to get out in front and have a comfortable margin,” Amaker said.
If offensive basketball was your pleasure coming into Lavietes Pavilion, then there was none of it to be found in the first half. Both teams shot under 31 percent in the first 20 minutes, and the only saving grace for Cornell was the fact it got to the line 12 times, hitting 11 free throws to take a 24-21 lead.
Harvard hit 9-of-29 shots (27.3 percent) before the break. At one point, the Crimson went more than six minutes in between field goals. Cornell wasn’t much better at 31 percent, with 16 misses from the floor.
Chambers his two first-half buckets in the final three minutes. His pull-up from the lane cut the Cornell lead to 20-16, and he knifed into the lane to score off the glass with two seconds remaining on the game clock to put the Crimson down by three after 20 minutes of offensive misery.

Coming out of halftime on Saturday, both Harvard and Cornell were looking to get their shooting percentages off life support.
Harvard was sitting in a 24-21 hole, with nearly as many missed field goal attempts (20) as points.
Cornell’s lead was odds-defying considering it shot 27 percent from the floor to Harvard’s 31.
Two of the Ivy League’s top scorers were on the court, both entering the day at 16.3 points per game — the Big Red’s Shonn Miller and the Crimson’s reigning conference player of the year, Wesley Saunders.
But the two stars combined to shoot 1 for 12 in the first half.
Both teams entered the break trying to solve the same problem. To Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, the answer was right in front of the Crimson.
“I told them that I was very pleased and I was impressed at how we were able to kind of grind a little bit in that first half and not shooting the ball well at all,” Amaker said. “I thought that was a good sign that we didn’t give in completely. It’s discouraging and disappointing a little bit not to make some open shots that you get, but we didn’t let our guard down.
“Cornell didn’t run away with it when the opportunity was there for them because we weren’t shooting well. They weren’t shooting well. We kept our defensive intensity up and I thought that was a key for us to talk about that at the end of the half. We talked about the first four minutes of the second half and what team was going to try to seize control of this game.”
The pieces fell into place for Harvard as it opened the second half with a 22-2 run en route to a 60-41 win at Lavietes Pavilion.
It started with Saunders grabbing a rebound, slithering through the defense, and absorbing contact as he went up to kiss a layup off the glass for his first bucket of the night.
Over the next nine minutes, the Crimson were 7 of 10 from the floor.
After Corbin Miller drained a 3-pointer from the corner in front of Harvard’s bench and Steve Moundou-Missi knocked down a long jumper from the opposite side of the floor, the Crimson had piled up a 43-26 lead.
Moundou-Missi finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Saunders stuffed the stat sheet with 8 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and Siyani Chambers and Miller both finished with 10 points.
The Crimson’s sixth straight win kept them atop the Ivy at 7-1, with a 17-5 overall record.
Even though Cornell (12-12, 4-4) was picked to finish eighth in the conference after going 2-26 a year ago, Amaker was expecting an ugly game Saturday.
Cornell had used a press to limit teams to 38 percent shooting and 60.7 points per game this season. Putting that defense on the same floor with a Crimson team that came in 14th in the country in scoring defense (57.5) meant nothing would come easy for either team.
It played out that way early when the Crimson went 4:21 without a basket. The longer the drought stretched, the more the good shots felt like mirages.
From the time Zena Edosomwan split a pair of free throws with 10:40 left in the first half, the faucet went dry on Harvard’s offense.
Saunders knifed through Cornell’s defense, got the whistle, assumed he was going to the line for free throws only to learn the call was on the floor.
At one point, Amaker saw Saunders lagging back on defense and had to get on him to make sure the struggles on offense didn’t bleed over to the defensive end.
“He was telling me that I was doing other things well and he was really positive with me,” Saunders said. “It’s tough when you think you’re doing the right thing and it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to. But that’s why our defense has always been our calling card . . . You can’t always control if you’re going to make shots or not.”
Miller, who has knocked down at least one 3-pointer in every game this season, came up empty on his first three looks from deep. But he figured it couldn’t go that way the rest of the night.
“We knew we had to continue to lock down on defense,” Miller said. “We knew as long as we were playing solid defense, everything would stem from that. And obviously, being here at home, we knew the shots were going to fall eventually. So our focus coming out [of halftime] was just to continue to play tough defense and then just attack on offense and trust that the shots would fall.”

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Harvard men's basketball team outscored Cornell 40-16 in the second half en route to a 61-40 win Saturday afternoon at Lavietes Pavilion.
Harvard trailed Cornell at the break, 24-21, but shot 54.5 percent (12-22) in the second half and hit seven 3-pointers to mount its comeback. The Big Red, meanwhile, was held to just 5-of-24 shooting after the intermission and finished the game with just 11 field goals, matching the lowest total by a Crimson opponent this season.
Steve Moundou-Missi scored a game-high 12 points to go with six rebounds and two assists. Siyani Chambers and Corbin Miller added 10 points apiece, with Wesley Saunders totaling eight points and 11 rebounds.
Chambers and Saunders each dished out five assists as the Crimson was credited with a helper on 17 of its 21 made baskets.
With the win, Harvard matched its longest win streak of the season at six games and improved to 17-5 overall, 7-1 against the Ivy League. The Crimson remains tied with Yale (18-7, 7-1 Ivy League) atop the Ancient Eight standings following the Bulldogs 81-73 win at Princeton (11-12, 4-3 Ivy League) this evening. Cornell, meanwhile, fell to 12-12 overall and 4-4 in the conference.
Harvard jumped out to an early 8-4 lead behind a pair of Moundou-Missi jumpers, but Cornell responded with a 15-3 stretch to take a 19-11 advantage. Moundou-Missi ended a 6:17 drought for the Crimson with another 15-footer, and a pull-up jumper from Chambers pulled Harvard within 20-16.
Jonah Travis completed a three-point play with less than a minute remaining before the half, and Chambers beat the buzzer on a drive to make it a 24-21 game in Cornell's favor at the break.
Both teams struggled from the floor through the first 20 minutes, with Harvard shooting 31.0 percent (9-29) and 0-of-8 from 3-point range while Cornell hit at just a 27.3 percent (6-22) clip. The difference in the half proved to be at the free throw line, where the Big Red went 11-of-12 against Harvard's 3-of-5 performance.
The Crimson came out of the locker room in attack mode and quickly regained the lead as Saunders began to take over the game. The senior scored five points, grabbed two rebounds and dished out one assist in the opening 2:20, with his assist on Agunwa Okolie's breakout dunk putting Harvard in front 28-24. Chambers continued the run with a pair of 3-pointers, the second assisted by Saunders, and Miller added two treys of his own to give the Crimson a 43-26 lead.
Moundou-Missi knocked down a baseline jumper to cap the run off at 24-2 and make it a 45-26 game. Harvard moved its lead to 56-35 as Chambers dropped a pass off for the cutting Saunders, and Andre Chatfield connected from long range to put the score at 59-35. Chatfield later concluded the scoring for the Crimson at the free throw line as Harvard completed the comeback, 61-40.
Game Notes: After trailing 24-21 at the break, Harvard opened the second half on a 24-2 run while holding Cornell to one field goal through the first 9:05 … Corbin Miller has made at least one 3-pointer in each of Harvard's 22 games this season, the fifth longest streak in program history … Cornell's 11 field goals made matched the lowest total posted by a Harvard opponent this season (St. Rose) ... Harvard has held 14 of its 22 opponents to fewer than 60 points and seven opponents to 50 points or less ... Harvard has matched its longest win streak of the season at six games, marking the eighth time that Harvard has won at least six games in a row under head coach Tommy Amaker ... The victory marked the 74th career Ivy League win for head coach Tommy Amaker, tying him with former Penn coach Chuck Daley (1971-77) and former Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher (1991-04) for 12th place in conference history.


Anonymous said...

Can we move on from the second half of the HAaaavard game. Focus on how to beat Yale and all would be well! This team can split its way to the final weekend and still end up with a winning record of 8-6 in ivy play by sweeping the P's at the end.

A win against Yale would put this team in position for POST SEASON PLAY and a lost to Yale will not stop it from getting there. Not a bad position to be in, ask Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth or Penn.

So if we could all just settle in for the final six weeks and root BigRed on the rest of the way maybe we as supporters can help this team down the stretch!

Lets go BigRed!!!!

Matt said...

What's up with the Cornell Sun's basketball coverage? When I was on staff, eons ago, we had timely game recaps with quotes from players and the coach. The sports reporter is indispensable, offering up a running narrative throughout the season and a dialogue with the program's key contributors. Rise and shine, Daily Sun.

Anonymous said...

I understand "tired legs" and all, but it seemed to me that, in the 2nd half of the Harvard game, Tommy Amaker made adjustments and significantly out-coached us.

Throughout the game , the (very good) Harvard announcers on the ILDN pick-up wondered why Shonn Miller spent so much hanging ariund the 3 point line. They kept repeating that if he drove to the basket, or posted up down low, Miller would be hard for Harvard to stop.

That comment has been stated on this Board a number of times, and does seem pretty obvious. . Can someone explain this offensive design??