February 17, 2003

M. Cagers Split Trip

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What a weekend to play at Harvard. With the highly anticipated hockey game going on nearby, the men’s basketball team (8-13, 3-5 Ivy) topped the Crimson (11-10, 3-5 Ivy) 82-69 at Laviete Pavilion Saturday night. The win ended a five-game losing streak, which included a 65-56 loss to Dartmouth (6-15, 2-6 Ivy) the previous night.

Head coach Steve Donahue was very pleased with how well his team responded to the loss Friday night, and the effort it put forth on Saturday.

“Obviously I’m very pleased with the effort Saturday night,” he said. “Friday night, I don’t think we played very well, particularly not recognizing the offensive effort of Dartmouth. But I think it was great to come back and win convincingly on the road. I thought it was a great team effort and I thought everyone did a good job.”

Becoming the third Cornell team of the weekend to defeat the Crimson, the squad did something it hasn’t done often this season — have a complete game. In the victory, the starting five all finished with strong performances. Leading the way was junior Ka’Ron Barnes, who recorded a career high 25 points in the win. He surpassed his previous single-game high of 21, achieved in three separate contests.

Of his junior captain’s play, Donahue said, “Ka’Ron has continued to play better as the season has gone along, and in my opinion, has taken a great leap in all aspects of the game. Off the court, he has become a terrific leader for us, and on the court, he is making big plays when they need to be made.”

He then added, “His perimeter shooting has improved, and he has become a real consistent performer to where I think he is one of the best guards in the league.”

Also posting strong shooting performances were sophomore Eric Taylor who netted 15, and classmate Cody Toppert, who had 12.

Toppert, who suffered a gash above the eye and received over a dozen stitches following the Penn game, once again received an inadvertent elbow, just above the other cut. This second injury required seven or eight stitches. After leaving the game to have the laceration looked at and covered, he returned to hit a three right away.

“Cody received another seven stitch gash above the other one from an inadvertent elbow,” said Donahue. “But he came back and played and did a nice job when he got back in there.”

The remaining starters, freshmen Lenny Collins and David Lisle, continued to play well and combined for 17 points. Collins also had a career-best six assists and four steals.

Of the game Collins explained, “We had a pretty good flow, and everyone just seemed to click. Ka’ron had a good game, E.T. stepped up and had some big shots, and so did Cody. Ka’Ron, E.T., and David Lisle also hit some big free throws to keep the lead up at the end.”

Harvard played its second game without 2002 All-Ivy selection Patrick Harvey, who left the team for academic reasons. Without the senior, who had been averaging 16.7 points per game, the Crimson had to rely on other members of the team to step up. Picking up the slack was Elliott Prasse-Freeman who finished the night with 14 points, but shot only five of 15. Brady Merchant added 10 points.

With a strong defensive effort, Cornell held Harvard to 36 percent shooting and 21 percent from behind the arc. The team also slightly out-rebounded the Crimson, 38-37.

Of the two games Collins said, “In the Dartmouth game, I think we came out flat, we didn’t have too much energy in the defensive end. We let Mike McLaren get too many open looks and he took advantage of it. And we didn’t do a good job stopping Charles Harris; we just didn’t have the energy.”

In contrast the team came out strong with a lot of energy in Saturday’s game.

“At Harvard, we came out with energy and had a lot of good defensive energy,” explained Collins. “We were able to use our defensive energy and use it on offense to put some points on the board.”

Barnes also believed the team played two different types of games this weekend.

“At Dartmouth, we didn’t play well at all,” he said. “But I’m glad we were able to step it up and play a lot better against Harvard and get the victory. When we played Dartmouth, we didn’t play as hard as we were able to, but against Harvard, we played as hard as we could.”

In Friday night’s game, despite outrebounding the Green 40-30, the Red shot just 40 percent and 29 percent from behind the 3-point line.

Barnes once again led the team in scoring with 16 points, and Lisle netted a career-high 13. Toppert had eight and a career-best nine rebounds, while Collins had six points along with a career-high 14 rebounds.

Dartmouth finished with 12 three-pointers and saw sophomore Mike McLaren score 22 points, including six from outside the arc. Senior Charles Harris added 21 points, and Steve Callahan had 14.

After the team’s loss to Dartmouth, the squad had a meeting in which it assessed what went wrong, and what it needed to do in the Harvard game. This meeting may have been the difference

“We had a meeting during the day before the Harvard game,” explained Collins. “I think the meeting really helped us decide what we need to do and where we wanted to go.”

Donahue said of the change in his team’s play, “This is a big development in our program; after losing to come back and win on the road, 15-20 hours later. It was a big step for us to get where we needed to get. I think everyone collectively stepped up and maintained that strong play throughout the game.”

The team will try and build on its strong play when it continues its road trip, as it heads to Yale Friday night and then Brown Saturday. It returns to Newman Arena Feb. 28 for its second match-up with Harvard.

Archived article by Kristen Haunss