Defensive rebounding and poor shooting plagued the men’s basketball team of 2000-2001. One game into the 2001-2002 season, those are still the causes of the Red’s woes, and the main reasons for Cornell’s 65-48 defeat at Canisius on Friday night.
Going into the season, the coaches and players on the men’s basketball team knew that defense and rebounding would be the keys to their season. The defense was solid, as it held the Golden Griffins to just 38.6% FG and 27.8% 3PT. However, the hosts completely dominated the glass, outboarding Cornell, 47-28. Canisius especially hurt the Red on the offensive end, where it reeled in 17 rebounds compared to just 7 for its Ivy foe. Cornell coach Steve Donahue felt that his team was hurt on the glass particularly in the second stanza.
“The first half, we did fine on the most part when we got our defense set. We’re not going to outrebound a lot of teams, but I don’t want to give up 17 offensive rebounds. In the second half, we pressured up a lot, so they got a lot of two on one’s, three on two’s, four on three advantages.”
The young Cornell team was also inconsistent and impatient on the offensive end, especially at the start of both halves. The Red failed to score its first points until over four minutes had elapsed in the first half, and by that time it was already trailing, 6-0. The visitors were equally impotent coming out at the half, scoring just one basket in the first five minutes, as Canisius went on a decisive 12-2 run. “We’re very inexperienced at the new offense, and running it against different defensive looks confused us in the beginning,” junior forward Jake Rohe said.
Donahue felt that his team failed to play within the offense. “The offense is designed to take a lot of 3’s. It’s not designed to take the quick 3’s that we took and that’s where we’ve got to get better.” After stumbling out of the gates, Cornell managed to tie the game at 17 midway through the first half. However, Canisius’ Toby Foster and Dewitt Doss hit back-to-back three’s to key a 17-6 run to open up a double-digit lead. The Red fought back, and closed the gap to just seven at the intermission, when freshman point guard AJ Castro hit a trey out of the corner with just four seconds remaining in the half.
Cornell’s lackluster shooting to start the second half spelled doom though, as the more experienced Golden Griffins put the game away. “The first few minutes of the second half are very important,” Rohe said. “They stepped up and we didn’t. We made some dumb mistakes early in the half, forced up some shots, and our defense wasn’t good and they took advantage of that.”
“That’s where our inexperience showed. To come back out after half-time and get back into it, and we didn’t. It’s hopefully something that we learn from.”
Canisius featured a balanced attack that saw all five members of its starting lineup reach double figures in scoring. Forward Hodari Mallory led the Griffins with 14, and was also a nuisance on the offensive glass, snatching four. Doss added 13, while point guard Brian Dux and center Jon Ferris scored 12 each.
Freshman guard Cody Toppert led the Red with 12 points, but shot just 4-13 from the field. Senior point guard Wallace Prather added 11, and sophomore Ka’Ron Barnes, in his homecoming, was the third Cornell player in double figures, with 10.
Even in defeat, there were positives that could be drawn from the game, particularly the encouraging play of the freshmen. Toppert was hot early in the game, hitting two 3’s to keep the Red close. Castro also drained two 3’s in the contest, and was steady with the ball. Starting center Chris Vandenberg was a huge presence in the middle, sending away 7 shots, which set the school’s freshman record for most blocks in a game.
“AJ did a terrific job. He played well, ran the team, and made the right decisions, and he’s going to see more minutes because of it.
“Chris played really well in stretches, especially defensively,” Donahue noted.
Archived article by Alex Ip