Friday, March 6, 2015

News and Notes: Friday Edition

Below, news and notes...

"As startling as the news was when Harvard fell to Cornell a week ago creating a tie atop the Ivy, [Yale coach, James] Jones had the final meeting with Harvard pinpointed as the game that would decide the league.  “I told the guys that it was always going to come down to this weekend,” Jones said. “I felt that in my heart. I didn’t think either team was going to be good enough to separate itself from the other enough where this weekend wouldn’t matter.”
  • The Yale Daily News writes of tonight's Harvard-Yale game, "As the loss against Cornell emphasized, [Harvard's Wes] Saunders cannot be the only scoring option if the team expects to come out on top...If the Yale defense can follow Cornell’s example and step up and limit the efficiency of Saunders and his supporting cast, the Bulldogs can be on the other end of a gritty game this time around."
  • Cornell Athletics' Game Notes for the weekend state in part, "With a .500 season or better, the Big Red will have an opportunity to earn a spot in a postseason tournament."  Cornell must win both of its games this weekend to do so.

Cornell (13-15, 5-7, Ivy) at Princeton (13-14, 6-5 Ivy)
Date: Friday, March 6 – 7 p.m.
Location: Jadwin Gymnasium • Princeton, N.J.
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League Digital Network
Cornell-Princeton Series
: Princeton leads, 141-80
Last Meeting: Cornell 68, Princeton 60 • 2/7/15 • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Stats | Cornell Game Notes | Princeton Game Notes



Cornell at Penn

Date: Saturday, March 7 – 7 p.m.
Location: The Palestra • Philadelphia
Live Broadcast: The Ivy League Digital Network
Cornell-Penn Series
: Penn leads, 149-74
Last Meeting: Penn 71, Cornell 69 • 2/6/15 • Ithaca, N.Y.
Live Stats | Cornell Game Notes | Penn Game Notes
  • Previewing Penn's weekend, the Daily Pennsylvanian writes, "The Red and Blue's last win came against their opponent on Saturday night, the Big Red. Though Cornell (13-15, 5-7) has dropped four of its last five, the Big Red shocked Harvard at home behind 24 points and 15 rebounds from forward Shonn Miller.  Miller also had a monster game against Penn in the Quakers' win on Feb. 6, posting 20 points and 10 rebounds to pace the Big Red. However, the Euclid, Ohio, native was outdone by Red and Blue junior captain Tony Hicks, who scored 25 points and hit a game-winning floater with four seconds left in overtime."
  • The Ivy League named Shonn Miller to its weekly Honor Roll and notes:
Shonn Miller, Cornell (Sr., F - Euclid, Ohio)
24 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks vs. Harvard
11 points, 10 rebounds vs. Dartmouth

Week 1, 11/17/14-Shonn Miller, Cornell
Week 2, 11/24/14-Justin Sears, Yale
Week 3, 12/1/14-Wes Saunders, Harvard
Week 4, 12/8/14-Javier Duren, Yale
Week 5, 12/15/14-Cedric Kuakumensah, Brown*
Week 6, 12/22/14-Maodo Lo, Columbia
Week 7,12/29/14-Shonn Miller, Cornell
Week 8, 1/5/15-Javier Duren, Yale
Week 9, 1/12/15-Henry Caruso, Princeton
Week 10, 1/19/15-Javier Duren, Yale
Week 11, 1/26/15-Justin Sears, Yale/Alex Mitola, Dartmouth
Week 12, 2/2/15-Justin Sears, Yale
Week 13, 2/9/15-Wes Saunders, Harvard
Week 14, 2/16/15-Justin Sears, Yale
Week 15, 2/23/15-Maodo Lo, Columbia/Wes Saunders, Harvard
Week 16, 3/2/15-Justin Sears, Yale/Malik Gill, Dartmouth

Week 1, 11/17/14-Antonio Woods, Penn
Week 2, 11/24/14-Mike Auger, Penn
Week 3, 12/1/14-Amir Bell, Princeton
Week 4, 12/8/14-Darnell Foreman, Penn
Week 5, 12/15/14-Sam Jones, Penn*
Week 6, 12/22/14-Kyle Castlin, Columbia
Week 7, 12/30/14-Aaron Young, Princeton
Week 8, 1/5/15-Kyle Castlin, Columbia
Week 9, 1/12/15-Makai Mason, Yale
Week 10, 1/19/15-Antonio Woods, Penn
Week 11, 1/26/15-Aaron Young, Princeton
Week 12, 2/2/15-Kyle Castlin, Columbia
Week 13, 2/9/15-Miles Wright, Dartmouth
Week 14, 2/16/15-Miles Wright, Dartmouth
Week 15, 2/23/15-Antonio Woods, Penn
Week 16, 3/2/15-Antonio Woods, Penn
* = Cornell idle
BRSN: Shonn, thanks for taking the time out to speak with us. After defeating Harvard on Friday, you moved the Crimson from the outright first place spot in the Ivy League into a tie with Yale. How did it feel for you, and as a team, to knock off Harvard, especially in front of Newman Nation on senior weekend?
SM: For myself and the rest of the seniors, it was a great feeling because it was the first time we had beaten them in our entire career. That may have been added motivation going into that game as well. We all knew that it was one of our last chances to play in front of our home fans and we wanted to make memories and go out with a bang.
BRSN: You eclipsed the 1,000 career point mark on Friday, and stand as one of only 25 Cornell players to do so. What does this accomplishment mean to you, as you further etch your name into the program record books?
SM: Reaching that milestone was very special to me. Although it is an individual accolade, I feel as though it is a team accomplishment. Of the three different teams that I’ve played on, each person on those teams provided help to put me in a position to be able to put the ball in the basket, so the credit really goes to those guys.
BRSN: Coming into senior weekend, what was the atmosphere like around the team and the locker room? What was the mentality of yourself and the rest of the team going into Friday and Saturday?
SM: I’d say the atmosphere was electric and exciting because all of the underclassmen wanted to send the seniors out on a good note. We were focused all week in practice and wanted to come out and execute our game plan. 
BRSN: After missing your whole junior season due to the shoulder surgery, can you talk briefly about returning to have such an outstanding senior campaign?
SM: Sitting out last year allowed me to view the game from a different perspective and gave me a new appreciation for basketball. Sitting on the sidelines and feeling that there is so much you could do to help your team, but physically not being able to go out and do it is a feeling that I’ll never forget. Coming into this year, I just wanted to fully take advantage of the opportunity in front of me and put my best foot forward.
BRSN: Looking back on the beginning of the year, how do you think the team has changed and improved over the course of the season?
SM: I think that we’ve definitely grown a lot since our first game down at George Mason. The underclassmen have matured a lot and as a team, we’ve learned how to better deal with adversity. 
BRSN: What is one thing that most people don’t know about you that you would like to share with fans of Cornell and, more specifically, Big Red basketball?
SM: A lot of people see me and think that I’m a really quiet and reserved person, and for the most part I am, but when I get on the court I’m a completely different person. Whether that’s getting on guys when they make certain mistakes or motivating people to get them at their best. I’m a lot more vocal than people would think.
BRSN: While wrapping up a terrific career for the Big Red, what are some of your most memorable experiences or highlights of your time on the hill?
SM: Some of my most memorable highlights boil down to being around my teammates and hanging out and having fun. From the trip to Vegas to hanging out in Ithaca on New Year’s when no one else is around, I definitely think that being around the people who I’m going to be friends with for the rest of my life is the thing I’ve enjoyed the most.

Ivy Player Has Eligibility Remaining, but Not in Ivy League
Shonn Miller Will Have to Leave Cornell Because of Rule on Graduate Students
ITHACA, N.Y. — After one of his final basketball practices at Cornell, Shonn Miller sat in the bleachers at Newman Arena, his eyes fixed on teammates who were still shooting jumpers.
Miller, a senior, laughed when asked if he would rather be with them on the floor than talking about his playing career, in which he established himself as one of the most accomplished players in program history and a candidate for Ivy League player of the year this season.
Miller, who missed last season after shoulder surgery, is in the curious position of having a year of eligibility left but not being able to use it at Cornell. An Ivy League rule forbids the participation of graduate students, so Miller will essentially be a free agent come his graduation in May.
His plans include contributing to another college team next season, most likely one with N.C.A.A. tournament hopes, but that is low among his current priorities. With two regular-season games to go at Cornell, he is trying to lead the Big Red to their own postseason appearance.
“He’s not going to worry about that until he’s done playing at Cornell,” Coach Bill Courtney said about his star player’s decision about where to play next. “These are his guys. He wants to win for them.”
Miller, who was Courtney’s first recruit at Cornell, would not be the only Big Red player to use his final season of eligibility at another Division I program. Errick Peck averaged 4.6 points a game for Purdue last season after earning a bachelor’s degree in communications from Cornell. Dwight Tarwater is averaging 3.7 points a game at Cal this season after graduating from Cornell in 2014. So-called graduate transfers can play right away.
“Unfortunately, that’s the way it plays out,” Galal Cancer, a Cornell senior, said about parting with some of his teammates because of the rule.
In November, Alex Rosenberg, a Columbia student, fractured his foot before the season. He took the unusual step of withdrawing, allowing him to return to the university and the team as a senior next season.
Miller was the Ivy League rookie of the year in 2011-12. As a sophomore, he was having an All-Ivy season and had Cornell close to postseason eligibility when he injured a shoulder in a game at Princeton. The Big Red lost their final four games without him, finishing 13-18. Shoulder surgery sidelined him for his junior year, and the Big Red were 2-26.
“I kind of let us down in a way,” Miller said of his injury. “For me, it was one of the worst feelings basketball-wise that I’ve felt, ever.”
But he began to see the game differently while on the sideline, envisioning spots where he could have helped on defense or in executing an offensive plan.
“It was huge for him to learn the game from sitting on the bench,” Courtney said. “He was able to see it as a coach. He matured a little bit. He wasn’t a leader before. He came back a leader because he understood what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Miller has played in all 28 games for Cornell this season, spurring one of the nation’s best turnarounds. He is averaging 16.3 points a game, third in the Ivy League, and 8.5 rebounds, which is first.
Although Cornell (13-15 over all, 5-7 Ivy League) will not be playing in the N.C.A.A. tournament, it may be invited to the tournament, the College Basketball Invitational or the National Invitation Tournament if it can defeat Princeton and Pennsylvania this weekend and finish 15-15.
But for Miller, playing in any postseason tournament is more important now than what may lie ahead. Next season, Miller could play for a program where an N.C.A.A. tournament berth is expected or a national championship might be possible.
He does not like discussing his post-Cornell playing career. Courtney met with Miller and his mother, Stephanie Williams, before the season and agreed that Miller should focus on completing his senior year at Cornell.
“Right now, it’s about Cornell,” Williams said. “If he thinks about going somewhere else, it would be difficult to give his all to his basketball teammates, his studies. Teams that want him are going to wait for him, and if they can’t wait, they don’t really need him.”
Coaches who call Courtney, Williams or Miller’s high school coaches at St. Ignatius in Cleveland receive the same message.
“I politely tell them, thank you for your interest,” Williams said. “When the season is over — sometime after, not the day after the season is over — I will definitely get in contact with you, and we will schedule something. It will be after he has some time to digest.”
Courtney called Miller, who is 6 feet 7 inches and has the ability to play both ends of the floor from the perimeter and the interior, the most talented player he has coached in his five years at Cornell.
Miller’s appeal was evident Friday night in an upset of Harvard (20-6, 10-2), which is tied with Yale for first in the Ivy League. Miller had 24 points and 15 rebounds in a 57-49 victory, highlighted by a reverse dunk off an alley-oop pass.
After the game, Harvard Coach Tommy Amaker said he thought Miller, who is third in the Ivy League in blocks and second in free-throw percentage at 83.4 percent, could have an impact at a major Division I program next season.
Despite often being the best player on the floor this season, Miller rarely calls for the ball or shows emotion after game-changing plays.
Early in the second half against Harvard, Miller, whose shooting beyond the arc has been one of his few weaknesses (27 for 96, or 28.1 percent), hit a 3-pointer that gave Cornell a 34-23 lead. As the Cornell student body came to life, the Crimson called a timeout, and Miller quietly walked to the sideline. Three minutes later, he hit another for a 40-28 lead as his teammates began jumping off the bench.
With Cornell in control late, Miller sealed the victory with 1 minute 16 seconds remaining, hitting a pull-up jumper to put the Big Red ahead, 50-41. He then turned toward Cornell’s student section, yelling while pounding his chest.
“It was just like, a lot built up until that point,” Miller said.
Two years after he watched his team’s postseason chances dissipate, Miller helped Cornell defeat Harvard for the first time in his career and ensured Cornell would remain in the hunt for a postseason berth.
Courtney said Miller’s commitment to the program had been unparalleled.
“People look at him and think he’s not into the game or think he’s floating,” Courtney said. “But he’s the most intense competitor I’ve ever coached.”
He added: “You look at him tonight: There’s no place in the country he can’t play.”
    • Bloomberg notes that The Basketball Tournament is back with an even more significant cash prize and writes, "The tournament brought former college teams together, including a number of recent Princeton graduates, and a large core of the 2010 Cornell team that advanced to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament."
    “A few Ivy League schools were looking at me like Cornell and Princeton,” Beck says. Beck was very interested in playing for Cornell, but after the Big Red signed several other guards, he didn’t see much opportunity to ever see the floor for Cornell. “The communication lacked, so I backed away,” he says, adding “I had to open my options.”
    • Ivy Hoops Online summarized last Friday's win over Harvard as, "Well, then. The Big Red raced to a 22-21 halftime lead and out-Crimsoned the Crimson in the second half, pulling away with stout defense and efficient shooting. Shonn Miller fired on all cylinders to the tune of 24 points, 15 boards and three blocks. In a season in which Miller has consistently struggled beyond the arc, a pair of Miller treys midway through the second stanza signaled this wasn’t Harvard’s night. The Big Red’s win snaps their nine-game losing streak against Harvard as well as the Crimson’s 12-game win streak in Ivy road games, dropping Harvard to 4-7 at home this season. Most importantly, the loss drops the Crimson to 9-2 in Ivy play."   
    • The Crimson also broke down Cornell's win over Harvard last Friday.
    Dwight Tarwater has gone through the sappy routine before. In the minutes leading up to Cal’s meeting with Oregon State on Sunday, Tarwater will walk to midcourt and be honored with Cal teammates David Kravish and Christian Behrens for Senior Day. It will be his second senior ceremony in two years. “I’ve got a lot of practice walking to midcourt as a senior,” Tarwater said. After four years and 79 games — including Senior Day — with Cornell’s program, Tarwater came to Cal as a graduate transfer with a year of eligibility. Although the plan was to get his master’s degree in public health while trying to compete at college basketball’s highest level, he wound up a starter. “I figured I had a little more in the tank,” Tarwater said. His connection to Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin runs through Knoxville, Tenn., which is Tarwater’s hometown. Martin spent three years coaching at Tennessee and had a next-door neighbor who worked with Tarwater’s father. Tarwater worked out at Tennessee during his offseasons. Still, he says the close proximity wasn’t a major factor in choosing Cal. “I can only imagine where we’d be without him,” Martin said. Although Tarwater is listed at 6-foot-6, Martin said he’s actually closer to 6-foot-4. However, he’s broad and strong, so he starts at power forward and guards bigger opponents. He’s not a major factor offensively, but he doesn’t make mistakes and provides a measure of consistency on an otherwise inconsistent team. Simply, he’s filled the role Martin asked of him. “He’s done an admirable job,” Martin said. “His intelligence, his awareness, his understanding. … He’s a guy that’s playing for California. He’s playing to win basketball games.”
    Shonn Miller thumped his chest as he ran across the court, emphatically nodding at the crowd. Shon Miller, who normally keeps his emotions in check while on the floor, had reason to celebrate. He had just hit a shot that put Harvard away for good. Ivy League leader Harvard. Three time defending champion Harvard. “I normally look mad or I don’t show emotion at all, but I just felt, when I hit that shot, ‘yes,’ it feels good, the crowd’s into it, we’re heading towards a win,” the 6’7” senior said. “We finally beat them for the first time in my career. It was just a lot built up to that point.” The victory was the first for the Red against Harvard in five years and was head coach Bill Courtney’s first career victory over the Crimson (20-6, 10-2 Ivy). The game snapped a three-game losing skid for the Red (13-15, 5-7) and kept playoff hopes alive. But it almost did not happen. In the Red’s previous game this year against Harvard, Cornell took a three-point lead into halftime, but was unable to maintain the lead as the Crimson went on a 24-2 run that silenced any hopes of an upset. Friday’s game could have very easily followed the same script. But, unlike last game in which the Red wilted in the second half, Cornell came out strong by making shots, forcing turnovers and playing suffocating defense. As the Red got going, the crowd’s excitement began to grow. “When we go small and apply our full court pressure, that really gets the crowd excited. I think we really fuel off that energy,” said senior guard Galal Cancer. “When the crowd is into it, it really propels us.” Cornell took a 12-point lead off of a Shon Miller 3-pointer with 10:48 to go. Harvard immediately responded with a 3-pointer of its own as the shot clock expired on the next possession. More hot shooting from the Crimson narrowed the lead to three with 5:27 left. The crowd, which had been deafening only moments earlier, was quieted and it seemed like all the momentum had swung back to Harvard. With under two minutes on the clock, the Red had brought the lead back up to seven, but the game was far from over. Harvard guard Corbin Miller, one of the best free throw shooters in the league, was fouled on a 3-pointer attempt. With the crowd screaming, he missed all three shots. “That will probably never happen again in his career,” said Harvard guard Wesley Saunders about the missed free throws. “He can make free throws with his eyes closed.” Saunders, the reigning Ivy League Player of the Year, scored a team-high 19 points but needed 21 shots to get there. In a battle of two top candidates for Player of the Year, it was Shonn Miller who shined the brightest, totaling 24 points and 15 rebounds. And it was Shonn Miller, not Saunders, who made clutch baskets down the stretch to give his team the lead. Following Corbin Miller’s missed free throws, Shonn Miller got the ball and effortlessly knocked down a jump-shot to put the Red up by nine with a little over a minute remaining, effectively ending the game. Harvard started fouling and Cornell, the best free throw shooting team in the league, connected on all but one free throw to end the game and complete the upset. “[Shon Miller] was aggressive right from the beginning. No hesitation, whether it was driving to the basket, or from three point range,” Courtney said. “That’s the guy we thought he could be at the beginning of the year. He’s shown flashes of that but i don’t think he’s put together a complete game like that all year.” With 21 total offensive boards, Harvard out-rebounded Cornell, 43-33. Courtney acknowledged that his team is often outsized in the paint, but says his players’ hustle is what allows them to overcome size differences. “If you look at any game of ours, when we’ve been successful, it’s because we’ve been the more scrappy team, the more aggressive team,” he said. “I think that at the end of the day, our grit and hustle really helped us win.” Harvard, who entered the contest with just one Ivy League loss, was nationally ranked to start the season. Coming off three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, the Crimson seemed to be on the path towards a fourth. The Red may have derailed that. Courtney joked after the game that Yale’s head coach may send him a thank you note for allowing the Bulldogs back into Ivy contention. After the weekend, Harvard and Yale are tied for first place, with two games to play. Harvard’s first in-conference loss came against Dartmouth (12-14, 5-7 Ivy), who the Red hosted on Saturday night for Senior Night. A ceremony before the game honored the six seniors on the team. In a rematch of Cornell’s overtime win several weeks ago, the Red looked to capitalize on its momentum from Friday’s big upset. Cornell was within one with five minutes to play in the first half, but a red-hot shooting streak from the Green allowed Dartmouth to furiously go up by 12 at the end of the half. The Green extended the lead to 20 with seven minutes to play and the game seemed out of reach. But Cornell did not cede the game just yet. A couple of quick shots and Dartmouth turnovers and the Red found itself down by just eight with a little under five minutes to play. Sophomore guard Robert Hatter, who struggled to shoot against Harvard, was the brawn behind this run, getting to the rim and drawing contact. He scored the Red’s first eight points of the game and finished with 23. “Hatter’s always aggressive. Whether [or not] he’s missed his first seven shots, he’s going to continue to shoot. He drives me nuts sometimes as a coach, but you gotta live with that because he continues to fight,” Courtney said. Following a steal on an inbounds pass, sophomore guard JoJo Fallas turned the ball over and Dartmouth scored on the other end, pushing the lead back to double digits. The Red kept up the pressure, but there just wasn’t enough time on the clock. Dartmouth won, 56-45. Cornell shot 54 percent in the first matchup against Dartmouth this season. On Saturday, the Red managed to shoot just 35 percent. “We didn’t make the shots and that’s kind of been the story of this group. Especially at the beginning of the game, we got some open looks, but we missed the shots,” Courtney said. “I felt like we started to force a little bit, trying to make plays instead of going to the open guy.” With 42 seconds left in the game, Courtney took his seniors off the court. The crowd responded with a standing ovation, thanking the seniors for their years of work. “We’re like brothers, we’ve lived together all four years,” Cancer said of his fellow seniors. “We really thought we could something special. Those are some talented guys. I’m proud to have had these guys as my teammates. It was just a great experience overall.”

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