February 9, 2004

Men's Basketball Wins, Loses

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Statistically, you might say the men’s basketball team’s games were mirror images of each other over the weekend. Unfortunately for the Red, the stat line was reversed from one day to the next.

Friday night’s game resulted in a decisive win for the Red, 96-81 over Brown, and Saturday night’s a just as decisive a loss, 67-48, to Yale.

Head coach Steve Donahue noted that the single loss to Yale shouldn’t tinge the Red’s whole road trip.

“Looking back I almost see it as a streak of six road games,” said the coach. “Unfortunately we just didn’t play well on Saturday.”

Taking all six games into account, the Red posted an admirable record. With this weekend’s split, Cornell finished its road stand with a 4-2 mark, including a 4-1 record against its Ivy opponents.

The Red’s loss to Yale was its first Ivy defeat of the season leaving the team 5-1 in conference play, with a 10-9 overall record.

Things couldn’t have started better for the Red Friday evening. Facing its toughest Ivy League competition yet, Brown (8-11, 4-2 Ivy), the Red came out on the attack and dominated.

“I thought we executed in the first 20 minutes as well as we can,” said Donahue.

Cornell built a 28-9 lead in the first 12:30 of play and kept its foot on the gas for the rest of the half. In the first, the Red shot 50 percent from the floor, including 40 percent on three-pointers, and held the Bears to an anemic 24 percent shooting.

Playing with Brown’s up-tempo transition game, the Red’s guards had a field day. Junior sniper Cody Toppert led the team with 29 points, shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc, including five tres in the second. Senior captain Ka’Ron Barnes stayed right with Toppert, tallying 27 points — 19 in the first half — and seven assists.

Not to be left out, junior captain Eric Taylor represented the team’s big men, turning in an excellent all-around performance, including 16 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks.

“It took a lot out of us,” said Donahue about the pace of the Brown game.

It showed the next night against the Bulldogs in New Haven.

“For whatever reason we just weren’t patient enough or poised enough on offense,” concluded Donahue.

Playing against Yale’s tough half-court game, nothing seemed to fall for the team, which shot 28 percent on the night, with a weak 14 percent from three point range.

The team had only three assists and eight field goals in the first, as the Bulldogs ran out to a 36-22 lead, and, in the second, not too much changed, with the Red scoring 26 and Yale 31 on the way to Cornell’s first Ivy defeat of the year.

There were several bright spots in the loss though. The Red dominated the offensive boards 17-7 and won the rebounding battle overall. And, for the second straight night, Taylor was at the top of his game.

“Eric really came to play this weekend,” said Donahue. “We really have to utilize him over the next three games.”

The center grabbed five offensive rebounds on his way to 12 overall and contributed a team-leading 14 points. Sophomore Lenny Collins also put up a solid game with eight rebounds, 11 points, and three steals.

Donahue also pointed to the great play of Gabe Stephenson over the weekend. While the junior power forward never produced eye-popping statistics, he consistently shut his man down on defense and gave the team the edge on the glass.

Looking ahead, Cornell has four home games to cure any road-weariness that might linger from its road trip. Next weekend the team will do battle with Ivy powerhouses Penn and Princeton.

“We’ve got four straight at home, but right now we’re thinking about Friday and Saturday,” said Donahue. “No matter what happens with Penn on Friday, the game with Princeton is going to be for first place in the Ivy League, and that’s what we want.”

With that in mind, Donahue is hoping for a crowd in the stands cheering at full blast.

“I’d love for everyone to come back and support us like they did for Georgia Tech,” said the coach.

Archived article by Matt James