January 22, 2001

Men outlast Lions in low-scoring defensive battle

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With approximately 3,000 fans on hand at Newman Arena Saturday night to see the Cornell men’s basketball team take on Columbia, the Big Red did not disappoint its supporters as it earned a hard fought 41-35 win.

This was the Red’s first Ivy League victory of the season after two losses on the road to perennial superpowers, Pennsylvania and Princeton. The win leaves the Red at 1-2 in the Ivies, and 5-10 overall.

The game was a combination of defensive brilliance and offensive futility, as both teams played ferocious defense, yet also had difficulty knocking down open shots. The Lions shot only 15% in the second half, for a game total of 24%, while the Red was a little more accurate, shooting 38% for the game.

With the Red down by one, 28-27, with seven minutes remaining, sophomore Jake Rohe and freshman Ka’ron Barnes decided to take the game into their own hands.

Rohe seemed like a man possessed as he drove the lane with authority only to be fouled by a Columbia defender numerous times. In the final seven minutes, Rohe went to the line four times, going 5-for-8 from the charity stripe, and 9-for-15 in the game, to end with a game high 15 points.

“I know what I am getting when Jake is out there,” head coach Steve Donahue said. “He plays hard and when he is looking to take it to the hole, he is a pretty good basketball player.”

Barnes was also a key contributor down the stretch as he made two jump shots from the top of the key to give the Red a comfortable lead. He also connected on one of two free throws with 27 seconds left to close out the scoring for the night and solidify a 41-35 Cornell win.

“I love the way he plays,” Donahue said. “He wants the ball late in the game.”

Going into the game last night, the Red knew that to win it had to stop Columbia’s prime-time player, junior guard Craig Austin. He posed a potential matchup problem because of his 6’6″ frame and ability to knock down the three-ball.

Averaging just under 15 points a game, Austin was manhandled by Cornell’s Rohe and sophomore David Muller as he was held to only seven points, on two of nine shooting.

Looking at the score, Austin was not the only Lion to be tamed by the Red defense. The entire Columbia team was unable to score against the swarming Red barrage.

“We were playing between a man and a zone,” Rohe said. “We were also pressing a little which did not let them have time to run their sets and it took them out of their game.”

While Columbia’s star player was on the floor, Cornell’s senior sensation, Ray “Pops” Mercedes was on the bench due to a coach’s decision. The Red was also without senior center Greg Barratt for the majority of the second half, as he went down with a slight concussion.

Though the Red id content with this win, to fulfill its overall goal after the two road losses, Cornell will need to win at Columbia’s home court next Saturday. With a win next weekend, the Red will even its Ivy league record at 2-2 and go into the second half of the season with a renewed sense of confidence.

Archived article by Jason Skolnik