February 23, 2004

Cagers Split Pair

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Saturday’s adrenaline-charged crowd at Newman Arena held its collective breath as guard Ka’Ron Barnes barreled down the court with the score 81-78 in favor of Harvard and time ticking away. The senior co-captain’s off-balance desperation 3 clanged off the rim, the Crimson erupted in celebration, and the sea of red in the bleachers cried out, deflated and defeated.

“When I got the [in-bounds pass], I was thinking to myself that I’ve got to take the shot,” Barnes said. “I was feeling it at the time, a lot of my shots were going in, so I took it. It went long.”

Despite a thorough dismantling of Dartmouth (3-21, 1-9 Ivy) on Friday, the heart-wrenching loss to Harvard (4-19, 3-7 Ivy) twisted the knife tighter into Cornell (11-12, 6-4 Ivy), further closing the window the fourth-place Red has to catch Ancient Eight leader Princeton (15-7, 8-1 Ivy).

“It feels like the season went down the drain,” Barnes said. “It’s not in our hands anymore. We need help.”

Right from the opening tipoff, Cornell and Harvard resumed the pleasantries of their first meeting this season, a 91-79 physical slug-fest won by the Red on Jan. 30. Every loose ball became a free-for-all, every fast-break a waiting collision. Elbows and hand-checks were the currency of the evening, and both teams shared in the wealth.

“We knew that Harvard fouls more than anyone in the league,” Barnes said. “They tried to make it physical and ugly, and they did a good job of it.”

After fast breaks from each team came up empty, Harvard got on the board first with a three-point play. Sophomore forward Lenny Collins answered for Cornell by hitting a baseline jumper, his first two points en route to a career-high 31.

“I had never put two halves together like that before,” said Collins, who connected on nine of 12 shots, as well as 12-of-15 from the charity stripe. “When my shots started to fall, I knew I had to be aggressive on the offensive end and see what defense gave me.”

Ten of Collins’s points came in the first half, which ended with the Red trailing 37-32. Cornell shot a dismal 36.7 percent from the field, missing 19 of 30 shots. The top two scoring leaders in the Ivy League, Barnes and junior guard Cody Toppert, were held to only six points each. The real disappointment, however, was Cornell’s 56.3 percent free throw shooting.

“It played a huge role,” said Collins. “If we hit those shots, then the score is tied at halftime or we’re up. It changes our attitude going into the second half.”

Lead Changes

The final period proved to be the most exciting, as the lead changed five times in as many minutes in the wakes of tit-for-tat transition baskets and hard fouls. Everything that Collins tossed up drew net and Barnes did his very best Jim Brown, throwing himself into the lane with a reckless abandon that totaled 21 second half points. Unfortunately for Cornell, the heroics of Collins and Barnes (who combined to score 44 of Cornell’s 46 second half points) were not enough to pull out the victory.

“We understand that we didn’t take advantage of our opportunity this weekend,” said Collins. “Our goal is to go down to Princeton and Penn and play our best two games of the season.”

The Red will take on the Tigers and Quakers on their home courts on Friday and Saturday, in an attempt to avenge losses to both teams over Valentine’s Day weekend.

Archived article by Per Ostman