December 3, 2001

Men's Basketball Can't Nail Down First Win

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A combination of a discombobulated offense and a size disadvantage contributed to Cornell’s fifth straight loss to open the season. In front of a raucous 2,316 fans in the Red’s home opener, Colgate (3-2) controlled the interior and frustrated Cornell’s offense for a 68-55 victory.

Playing in front of a packed house, Cornell jumped out to an early 9-4 lead. However, after weathering the early Red rush, Colgate took control of the game on the strength of a 9-0 run midway through first half. Super sub, Raiders sophomore forward Howard Blue, ignited the visitors by scoring six straight points in that spurt, single-handedly giving them the lead.

Later in the half, Colgate went on a 10-2 run that gave it the largest advantage of the first period at 29-20.

The resilient Cornell squad narrowed the gap to 30-26 by the half on a 3-pointer from co-captain senior guard Wallace Prather and an acrobatic three-point play by sophomore guard Ka’Ron Barnes. On the play, freshman forward Eric Taylor deflected an entry pass to Prather who found Barnes slashing to the hoop. Barnes hung in the air, double clutched and scored despite being fouled on the play.

The Red opened the second half much like it ended the first. Barnes hit a 3 to pull Cornell within one, and after a Colgate basket, freshman guard A.J. Castro, hit two foul shots to make the score 32-31 Raiders. As they had in the first half, the visitors used another 9-0 run to pull away, as the Red never got within seven points the rest of the way.

Cornell’s inability to hold onto the ball and make the outside shot

hampered its ability to make a serious run in the second stanza.

“I thought we did some foolish things with the basketball,” Cornell coach Steve Donahue said. “There were a couple of times we were in transition and we made bad decisions. Just got lazy with the basketball.”

The Red’s offensive troubles can in part be attributed to Colgate’s tough defense. The Raiders forced 10 second-half turnovers and 17 in all.

They also held Cornell to just 37.7% shooting.

Colgate coach Emmett Davis felt that his defense was the difference-maker.

“We talked about at halftime that we needed to continue to defend. We wanted to be a little more aggressive on the basketball and loosen up our denials on the wings. By and large, I thought our defensive effort was the key in the second half.”

As it has all season long, the Red continued to struggle from beyond the arc. After shooting an abysmal 4-for-22 from behind the arc against Notre Dame, the Red shot just 6-for-23 against the Raiders. Rather than the open looks that come in the flow of offense, many of the shots were forced and came with the shot-clock winding down.

“We’re getting a lot of deep bombs because we’re not cutting as hard as we should, so we get down late in the shot clock and we have to shoot those long 3s,” Barnes noted. “We just have to execute more.”

Donahue acknowledged that the right players have to take those attempts.

“We’re relying way too much on that. The guys who aren’t really 3-point shooters are shooting 3s. I’ve got to do a better job of communicating what I want each guy to do. Just way too quick and not enough poise with the basketball.”

On the offensive end, Colgate went to its bread and butter on the

interior against a depleted Cornell front line. Forward Pat Campolieta led all scorers, putting home a game-high 17 points. Center Martin Marek added 16, while forwards Blue and Tim Sullivan chipped in with 15 and 10, respectively.

“We really throw the ball inside,” Davis said. “They’re a little

shorthanded now with the injuries inside, with [freshmen forwards Chris] Vandenberg and [Gabe] Stephenson. [Those are] two big kids sitting there in street clothes. They’d certainly make a difference in the game.”

Despite a solid six points and nine rebounds from freshman forward Eric Taylor, the absence of Vandenberg — Cornell’s defensive specialist — was painfully noticeable.

“We got used to him back there. We’re so undersized without him,” an exasperated Donahue said. “We’ve got to learn to deal with life without Chris, especially on the defensive end.”

Barnes agreed. “That lack of size is killing us,” he said.

Although his team is still winless, Donahue still believes that the Red is brimming with potential.

“This is a young team and we’re going to get better. I hope people stay with this group and believe in it. It’s a growing process.”

Cornell will have a chance to notch its first victory of the campaign

tonight, as it faces cross-town rival Ithaca College in the teams’ first-ever regular season meeting. The game is part of the Coaches versus Cancer campaign and all proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. in Newman Arena.

Archived article by Alex Ip