March 5, 2007

Men’s Basketball Finishes Season, Graduates Seniors

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This past Saturday night, an announced crowd of just over 2,000 spectators packed into Newman Arena to watch the Red’s graduating seniors close out their careers in style by beating Dartmouth 76-53. With the victory, Cornell finished third-place in the Ivy League and gave the Red departing seniors the best league record of their careers at 9-5 (16-12 overall). In a fitting end, senior tri-captain Andrew Naeve punctuated his career with 21 points to lead all scorers, while freshmen Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman chipped in 16 and 14 respectively.

“I was really upset by [Friday] night’s game and I didn’t want the same result,” Naeve said. “To come back and play how we know to was awesome.”
[img_assist|nid=21843|title=Nothing easy|desc=Senior Ugo Ihekweazu (1) contests a shot by Dartmouth’s Johnathan Ball in the Red’s 76-53 victory on Saturday night|link=none|align=left|width=67|height=100]
The Red never trailed once in the game and used a strong effort on both ends of the court to keep the Green out of contention for much of the forty minutes. Cornell was able to hold Dartmouth to 37 percent shooting and behind a tough defensive effort from senior tri-captain Graham Dow yielded only 8 points to the Green’s leading scorer, senior Leon Pattman, who came in averaging just over 16 points per contest. For its part, the Red shot just over 50 percent, including 41 percent from beyond the arc.

“[Dow] did an unbelievable job on Pattman,” said Cornell head coach Steve Donahue. “Pattman is unguardable in our league and Graham did a great job challenging him and staying underneath him.”

Dow also put in a solid effort on offense by adding 9 points and “assisted” on the night’s most spectacular play- a one-handed put-back dunk by senior Ugo Ihekweazu off Dow’s missed lay-up.

“In retrospect, I wish I could say I missed that on purpose,” Dow said.

The Red was able to score in more conventional fashions throughout the game as it opened up its first double-digit lead midway through the first half leading 18-7 with just over 10 minutes to play in the half. Dartmouth was able to keep it close; however, as the Green cut the deficit to 5 just minutes later behind a lay-up by sophomore Dan Biber. The Red wasted little time rebuilding the lead as Dow scored on a lay-up and Wittman hit a three with just less than six minutes to go in the period. After a Biber put-back brought the lead down to seven, Dale and Naeve scored the Red’s last 11 points and put Cornell on top 36-22 at the half.

“[Naeve] has been playing very aggressively and learned he can score,” Donahue said. “He was the difference between us being 5-9 and 9-5.”

With the start of the second-half came more of the same from the Red as Dow quickly increased the margin to 18 by sinking two free-throws and going coast-to-coast for a fast-break lay-up. The Green managed to keep the game interesting as it twice cut the lead to 10 with fourteen minutes remaining. The lead jumped back up to 15; however, as freshman Alex Tyler scored from the paint and sophomore Brian Kreefer came off the bench to complete a three-point play as he was fouled on a lay-up. Dartmouth sophomore Alex Barnett got the Green as close as it would be for the remainder as the St. Louis native hit a jumper and a foul shot to make the score 51-39 in the Red’s favor. Cornell controlled the remaining twelve minutes and the senior class, including tri-captain Kevin App and Jason Mitchell, came onto the floor in the game’s waning minutes so the Newman faithful could give them one last send-off.

“You don’t replace easily a player like [App,]” Donahue said. “He was a great recruiter for our program and when recruits are around him, they really enjoy the experience.”

With the joy of victory also comes the sad realization that one has played their last game in the carnelian and white.

“These four years have been amazing and a great time,” Naeve said. “I loved playing for Coach Donahue and with all [the seniors.] I am really going to miss it.”