Tuesday, February 3, 2015

GAME RECAP: Yale 65, Cornell 57

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Cornell took a brief lead midway through the second half, but Javier Duren's 3-pointer on the ensuing possession triggered an 8-0 Yale run and the Big Red never recovered in a 65-57 loss to Yale on Saturday evening at Newman Arena. The Bulldogs improved to 15-6 (4-0 Ivy), while the Big Red slipped to 10-10 (2-2 Ivy).

The Big Red shot just 33 percent for the game and 19 percent from 3-point range, but stayed in the contest with its defense. The Bulldogs turned the ball over 16 times and shot under 40 percent from the field and 30 percent from the arc, but its clear advantages on the glass (46-31) and at the free throw line (22-13) were too much to overcome in a grind-it-out type game.

Shonn Miller had 15 points, 11 rebounds and two steals, but like his teammates, struggled from the floor with 6-of-20 shooting. Devin Cherry added 14 points and five assists and Galal Cancer had 12 points and two steals in the loss. Cornell had nine steals that led to an 18-7 Big Red advantage off turnovers and turned the ball over themselves just eight times, allowing them to stay within shouting distance until the final five minutes.

Justin Sears had a game-high 19 points and Javier Duren notched 16 points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Matt Townsend rounded out the double figure scorers with 13 points. Armani Cotton had a solid all-around floor game, scoring seven points, grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out three assists.

Yale took a 31-25 lead into the half after leading throughout the first 20 minutes, though most of the way by five points or less. The Bulldogs went up seven early (12-5) and then again late (23-16), but Cornell used a 3-pointer by Miller and a tip-in by Darryl Smith after a Miller miss to get back within a point with three minutes left in the half. A pair of dunks by Sears stretched the lead to two possessions, the second with eight seconds left, but undaunted, Cherry went coast-to-coast and was fouled at the buzzer. He made the second of his two free throws to send the game to the break.

Cornell started the second half quickly, with two free throws by Cherry and a dunk by Miller to get within 31-30 and tied the contest at 35-35 four minutes later after Jordan Abdur-Ra'oof hit a 3-pointer and Hatter broke down the court for a layup after a Bulldog miss. A minute later, Cancer hit two free throws to give the Big Red its first lead since 2-0 at 37-35. Almost immediately, Duren calmly sank a lefthanded 3-pointer, triggering the run that would provide the cushion.

A conventional three-point play on an inbounds curl by Pat Smith got the Big Red within a possession at 43-40 with under nine minutes remaining, and a Cherry jumper a minute later answered a Yale basket to keep it a three-point game. Cornell made one last run, cutting a 10-point Bulldog lead to six in the blink of an eye with a putback by Dave LaMore and a steal by Hatter on the ensuing possession that turned into a Miller dunk on the other end to force a Yale timeout with under four minutes to play. The Big Red defense forced a miss, but as it did a number of times throughout the contest, Yale rebounded its own miss and Townsend put it back to end the momentum. After a Cornell miss, Armani Cotton hit his second 3-pointer of the night to close it out.

Cornell remains at home next weekend to face Penn and Princeton. The matchup with the Quakers on Friday, Feb, 6 will be at 8 p.m. from Newman Arena on the American Sports Network.

The Cornell men’s basketball team went 1-1 this weekend in its games against Brown and Yale, leaving the team at 10-10 on the season and 2-2 in Ivy League play. With four league games under its belts, the Red is tied in Ancient Eight play for third place with Columbia, and sits two games behind league leader Yale.
In its 57-49 win over Brown, the Red came out with a drive to disrupt the flow of the Bears’ offense. Brown boasts a front court of Rafael Maia and Cedric Kuakumensah, both of whom sit at 6 feet 9 inches and can score efficiently. The Red made it a point stop Brown’s big men and subsequently keep the Bears’ guards from being threats. The Red applied intense ball pressure and used its length and athleticism to trap the Brown guards constantly. In doing so, the Bears were unable to move the ball inside to their big men, and it forced them to play an undesired game. Despite the Red’s defensive execution, it was unable to follow through on the offensive end.
The Red’s shooting woes continued with just 37 percent from the field. Despite that, the squad was able to convert when necessary and used an early push to fuel a 33 point second half, giving it the victory. The Red forced 13 turnovers and conceded just five, which proved to be a deciding factor late in the game.
“We came up big when we had to. We played hard throughout, and in the end, hit free throws to finish it. It wasn’t always pretty, but we displayed our ability to execute late,” said head coach Bill Courtney.
In the second leg of its weekend double-header, the Red fell to Yale, 65-57. Again, offensive troubles plagued the Red. Senior Shonn Miller shot just 1/11 in the first half, finishing 6/20 on the game. That was coming off a night of 3/13 shooting against Brown. Everyone has off days and understandably so, but when an offense goes through a player as much as the Red goes to Miller, shooting at that rate disrupts the entire team’s offensive flow. Despite that, Miller finished the weekend at the top the league standings in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.0 rpg). The Red also saw fouls by sophomore forward David Onurah and sophomore guard Robert Hatter, who each played for under 20 minutes.
“We did not come to play late. Last night we hit our free throws, tonight we didn’t. Things like rebounding and taking good shots were not done late in the game and it hurt us,” Courtney said.
Courtney has shown a willingness to go deep into his bench and this weekend was no different with eight bench players seeing minutes throughout the two games. Despite that, only 29 of the Red’s 114 total points were scored by bench players. If the Red wants to make a push for the league title, the bench will need to pick up more of the slack on rough shooting nights, as we saw this past weekend.
The Red will continue its homestand this weekend when it plays host to the Penn Quakers and Princeton Tigers. With the Ivy League being the only conference to give an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament to its regular season champion, each team knows that every game is crucial. The Red will look to corrects its mistakes sooner rather than later in order to make a push for that top spot.

The Yale men’s basketball team reminded everyone why it belongs at the top of the Ivy League by sweeping its New York road trip this past weekend, remaining undefeated in conference play.
Yale (15–6, 4–0 Ivy) knocked off Columbia (10–8, 2–2) 63–59 and Cornell (10–10, 2–2) 65–57 in a series of tight games for the team’s first road sweep of the Lions and Big Red since 2003. Experience has played a large factor in helping the Elis to their best start against Ancient Eight competition since 1962.
“Javier [Duren ’15] knocked down some clutch free throws, and then we made a big stop down the stretch,” forward Justin Sears ’16 said. “So that just comes back to last year and some games earlier in the non-conference schedule. We’ve accumulated a lot of experience and have been in this situation countless times. We’re ready for whatever gets thrown at us.”
After a three-pointer from Columbia star Maodo Lo with 3:41 remaining, the Bulldogs were clinging to a one-point lead. But Yale, which was shooting just 11–21 from the free throw line at that point, would knock down six in a row from the charity stripe, including four straight from Duren, to put the Elis up three with 16 seconds left in the game.
Columbia had its opportunities, handing the ball to its junior standout Lo, who scored 17 of his 20 points in the second half and shot a blistering 6–8 from behind the arc. Sears, however, thwarted his last second efforts, blocking Lo’s three-point attempt with six seconds on the clock.
“I had a lot of defensive blips in that second half, so I knew I had to make up for it,” Sears said. “The guy was driving circles around me this game, so I just had to hunker down and make sure he didn’t get the three off, trusting my help-side defense if he went by me.”
Sears reaffirmed his candidacy for the Ivy League Player of the Year award, notching 28 points, eight rebounds, three blocks and, perhaps most notably, zero turnovers. Columbia head coach Kyle Smith noted that the team’s defensive strategy on Sears obviously did not work, especially since they were unable to keep him off the foul line.
In fact, Sears got to the line twice as much as the Lions’ entire roster, going 8–12 from the foul line as compared to 3–6 shooting by Columbia as a whole.
Yale also took care of the ball against Columbia, turning the ball over a season-low three times while forcing the Lions into 14 turnovers. The Bulldogs scored 13 points off Columbia’s miscues in comparison to the Lions, who notched only two points off turnovers.
“Kudos to Yale as far as turning the ball over only three times,” Smith said. “That’s out of character for them — they turn the ball over usually more than that. They played well, they took care of the ball.”
With the late 8 p.m. start against Columbia, the Bulldogs faced a quick turnaround with a 6 p.m. tip off against Cornell, getting into Ithaca at 4 a.m. The Big Red was coming off a win against Brown and sought to take down Yale for a share of the Ivy League lead.
But the Elis did not relinquish their grasp atop the standings. Tired legs did not seem to be a problem, as the Elis jumped out to a quick seven-point lead just five minutes into the game.
“We were tough and gritty and handled the tough situation really well,” head coach James Jones said. “Armani [Cotton ’15] was all over the glass, and Matt [Townsend ’15] was tough as nails defensively and did a nice job offensively.”
The Bulldogs limited the Big Red to 33.3 percent shooting from the field and showcased a strong defensive effort, especially against the Ivy League’s leading scorer, forward Shonn Miller, who shot an inefficient 6–20. Over a five-minute stretch late in the second half, the Elis were able to extend their lead to a dozen points on a 12–4 run, and Cornell was unable to get closer than eight the rest of the way.
Around the rim, Yale stepped up its game. Following their game in the Big Apple, where Columbia outrebounded the Elis 33–28, Jones said that the team allowed the Lions to get too many offensive rebounds. He added that he had faith that the Bulldogs would be better on Saturday night, and Yale outhustled Cornell to grab 46 rebounds to the Big Red’s 31.
Sears finished Saturday’s game with 19 points and just two turnovers. In his last three games, Sears has 74 points and only those two giveaways.
While the Bulldogs are doing well thus far, they also got off to a strong start last season, going 8–1 in league play before dropping four of their last five games.
“We were kind of blinded by the spotlight,” Sears said. “That second go-around when we had to do the second matchups with other teams, we were a little caught off guard that we were going to get everyone’s best shots. Right now, we’re ready for everyone’s best shots since the target’s on our backs this year.”
The Bulldogs will need to remain focused on each game individually as next weekend provides a series of tough matchups. Dartmouth and Harvard visit New Haven next weekend for a pair of 7 p.m. games.

ITHACA, N.Y. – Yale's long journey through New York State went quite well.

Three players scored in double figures as the Bulldogs completed a weekend sweep with a hard-fought 65-57 victory over Cornell before 3,119 at Newman Arena. Justin Sears scored 19 points, Javier Duren added 16 points and 11 rebounds and Matt Townsend chipped in 13 points as Yale remained undefeated in Ivy League play.

It was far from a routine sweep. Yale edged Columbia 63-59 on Friday night in a game that tipped at 8 p.m., jumped on the bus afterwards and didn't arrive in Ithaca until 4 a.m., just 14 hours before Saturday's 6 p.m. start.

"It was a very gritty job by our guys in both games," said James Jones, The Joel E. Smilow, Class of 1954 Head Coach of Men's Basketball. "We really dug in and came together."

Yale (15-6) is 4-0 in Ivy play for the first time since 1962.

"It just means we've taken care of business so far," Jones said. "It doesn't mean much. Things can change on a dime."

The Bulldogs swept the Columbia-Cornell road trip for the first time since 2003.

"What I'm most proud of is our ability to win close games," said Townsend, who was 5-of-7 from the field in the win over Cornell. "We've shown a lot of grit and heart and that is something you need."

Yale did it with defense on Saturday, holding Cornell to just 33.3 percent from the field.

"They have a lot of athletes," Townsend said. "We were able to contain the dribble and force pull-up jumpers."

Shonn Miller, the league's leading scorer, paced the Big Red with 15 points, but he was only 6-of-20 from the field, including 1-of-6 from three-point range.

Yale also dominated on the glass, outrebounding Cornell 46-31. Armani Cotton led the way with 13 boards, a career high. Duren's 11 rebounds also were a personal best. The double-double was Duren's second in league play this season.

The Bulldogs, who have won five in a row overall, led 31-26 at halftime, but Cornell opened the second half with an 11-4 run to take the lead. It was shortlived. Yale scored the next eight points and never looked back. Duren started the run with a three-pointer, and Sam Downey capped it with a three-point play.

The Big Red (10-10, 2-2 Ivy) pulled within three on a couple of occasions but didn't get any closer.

The Bulldogs, who have played three of their four league games on the road, return to Lee Amphitheater next weekend. Yale hosts Dartmouth on Friday and Harvard on Saturday. Both are 7 p.m. tips.

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