After struggling away from Newman Arena all year, the Cornell men’s basketball team concluded its road schedule this weekend, splitting its games against Brown and Yale. The Red beat Brown (8-21, 2-10 Ivy League) on Friday, 69-63, before falling to Yale (19-7, 9-3) in a blowout on Saturday, 71-40. Cornell (11-15, 6-6) finished its road schedule with just two wins in 15 tries.
The Red has emphasized starting games with a lot of energy, and against Brown, Cornell did just that — getting off to a hot start and establishing a large lead that the team never relinquished.
“We got off to a great start,” said senior guard and co-captain Chris Wroblewski. “We really jumped on them early, which is something coach Courtney tries to emphasize to us every week. We got up 16 at one point, [and] because we’ve been put in that position at times this year, [we know] it’s a tough hole to get out of and we created a bit of a cushion for ourselves.”
After just 10 minutes, the Red was up, 26-10, mainly due to a play by freshman forward Shonn Miller. He scored nine points during the sequence and 15 of his 17 points in the first half. The rookie also grabbed nine rebounds.
“[Miller] was the reason for most of the points in the first half and during that run [when we built the lead],” said senior guard and co-captain Drew Ferry. “He provides great energy for us and he’s a dynamic player. He can post smaller guys up and he can take bigger guys to the basket because he’s quick. He’s just a great player.”
The Red went into the half with the lead, 42-31, and never slowed down to start the second half. Cornell increased its lead to 17 points; however, Brown countered by calling forward Dockery Walker off the bench. Walker, who averages only five points and four rebounds a game, went wild against the Red, putting up career-highs in points (23) and rebounds (17), as he almost single-handedly kept the Bears in the game.
“We got off to a great start in the second half as well … then they put Walker back in the game and that’s when they made their run,” Wroblewski said. “All the credit to him; he had career highs in both points and rebounds. If I had a game like that, I’d be overjoyed and I hope he is too for his outstanding performance.”
Despite Brown’s late run, the Red coasted to victory, winning 69-63. Wroblewski helped the Red by recording 24 points on 56-percent shooting, which included a game-high 11 rebounds.
“[Wroblewski] is very aggressive going to the glass,” Ferry said. “He’s one of our leading rebounders and it’s no accident. He works really hard pursuing balls and he’s a very aggressive player, offensively and defensively, and the stat line shows the effort he has put in all year.”
The Red provided a strong effort when it came to shutting down Brown’s star point guard Sean McGonagill, who leads the team in minutes played, scoring and assists. He missed all eight of his shots from the field and scored just two from the charity stripe, which led to four turnovers.
“[McGonagill] played phenomenal against us last year, so we just threw a lot of different guys at him just to wear him down,” Wroblewski said. “We pressed the entire game, and luckily, he didn’t hit some of the shots he’s used to hitting, so in that regard we got a little lucky, but all the credit to the guys who defended him, like [junior guard] Miles Asafo-Adjei and [freshman guard] Galal Cancer.”
The Red struggled against Yale, shooting only 22 percent from the field. The Bulldogs opened the game with an 8-0 run. Cornell responded quickly with a 16-8 run to tie the game, 16-16. At this point, the Red started to lose its grip on the game, as the squad struggled to buy a bucket and Yale seemed unable to miss. The Bulldogs led the Red at half, 37-24.
“Sometimes the ball just doesn’t go into the hoop,” Wroblewski said. “It was Senior Night, so I think their guys came out with a lot more energy than us and they hit their shots. When one team is hitting all their shots and the other team just isn’t, the game will be played out like it did and it was a very embarrassing game for all of us.”
“We definitely were getting good looks — I know personally that I had good looks — but shots that we made [against Brown], we didn’t make [against Yale],” Ferry said. “We have to be able to overcome a few missed shots and regain our confidence and knock them down and we just weren’t able to do that. Yale did play good defense, but for the most part, we got good looks we just couldn’t knock them in.”
The story did not change much in the second half, as Yale cruised to an easy victory, 71-40. No Cornell player scored more than two field goals and only Wroblewski scored more than five points.
Despite the deflating loss, the Red looks to use this weekend’s blowout as motivation for its last two games of the season, according to Ferry.
“It’s tough to see positives when you lose in a 30-point game like that and play as poor as we did,” Ferry sad. “But, I think it could motivate us for this last week to come out and work extremely hard this week in practice and come out and get two wins this weekend.”